Claire McCaskill pledges to block any earmarks that emerge from the House of Reps

A U.S. Senator representing Missouri is lamenting efforts to undo years-long work to ban earmarks in Congress. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, has been a leader in ending funding of politicians’ pet projects through earmarks. A bipartisan bill McCaskill has co-sponsored seeks to permanently ban the practice, which she has called wasteful.

Last week, U.S. House Republicans nearly approved — then withdrew for further consideration next year— a plan to bring back congressional earmarks in a closed-door meeting, according to reports from national news sources, including Fox News.

McCaskill, the Senate’s leading Democratic opponent of earmarks, called on Missouri’s U.S. House delegation to reject such a vote, and pledged to use Senate rules to strip any earmarks that emerge from the U.S. House.

“So Donald Trump is elected President with a promise to ‘drain the swamp’ and the one of the first things his party in the U.S. House does is head into a closed-door meeting to try to bring back earmarks?” asked McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor. “This is exactly what Americans are mad about. Missouri’s U.S. House members and all House Republicans need to reject this idea, and if they don’t, I’m going to do everything I can to block any earmarks that emerge from the House.”

According to reports, House Speaker Paul Ryan shut down the vote on earmarks just as it was about to pass in a closed meeting.

“Every Republican in the U.S. House should have to answer for why they thought this was a good idea in the first place,” McCaskill said after the action.

For years, the earmarking process was notorious for its secrecy and lack of oversight or accountability, with funding for politicians’ pet projects often awarded based on political influence instead of on merit. Large amounts of money earmarked for projects has sat in the halls of Washington. Earlier this year, $72.6 million of trapped earmarked funds were released to assist in funding transportation projects in Missouri. More than $3 million will be used to upgrade U.S. Highway 61 in Ralls County.

These funds were originally earmarked by Congress for use 10 or more years ago, but because they were duplicates, or the project was scrapped, among other reasons—the funds were never used.

A provision included in last year’s highway bill, based on legislation McCaskill introduced with Republican Senator Jeff Flake, allowed these resources to be spent on critically needed transportation and infrastructure projects within a 50-mile radius of the project site of the original earmark.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at eric.dundon@courierpost.com .