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House GOP appropriators now speak up about rethinking earmark ban

It might have seemed like a GOP victory when last November, President Obama ordered a moratorium on earmarks. But lately, a few House appropriators, both Democrats and Republicans, have expressed concern that the definition of what makes an earmark an earmark might be too broad and could create hurdles for 2012 spending measures and other project-based bills, reports Roll Call.

According to Roll Call, Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) is among the Republican contingency that believes the term earmark needs to be clarified. Yet the GOP’s House leadership seems set on the ban that was decided in November in a closed-door conference voice vote.

GOP leaders are suggesting the Conference as a whole doesn’t want to revisit the issue. Spokesmen for Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) both said Monday that the ban is settled.

“The House Republican Conference has adopted an earmark moratorium. Period,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.

Still, several GOP appropriators echoed LaTourette’s sentiment that lawmakers needed a clearer sense of what is included in the ban before they move forward on legislation that funds water, roads and infrastructure projects.

“If Congress wants to use its Constitutional authority to direct spending, then we do need to discuss where that authority can be reclaimed and where it [can’t],” said Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican who has long been in favor of addressing the earmark issue.

Kingston, who introduced banning legislation in 2007, said the Army Corps of Engineers’ projects was one area for which Congress should appropriate funding, according to Roll Call.

On the Senate side, Bloomberg reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S. C.) is pushing to deepen Charleston Harbor in South Carolina and is worried an earmark ban could affect funding for that project.

This is how the Office of Management and Budget defined an earmark back in 2007, when earmark-banning legislation was first introduced:

Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Administration to control critical aspects of the funds allocation process.

In December, Politico’s Mike Allen succinctly described the predicament for Republicans that want to “redefine” earmarking:

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