WASHINGTON —The letter drafted by Georgia’s lawmakers was, on its face, a routine one: The delegation wanted more federal money for dredging work at Savannah’s harbor. But look a little closer and the semantic gymnastics were apparent.
Congress’ earmark ban prevented the representatives from directly asking the House Appropriations Committee for what they wanted. They instead were left with a more indirect route: calling for their colleagues to increase funding for a broader account at the Army Corps of Engineers that bureaucrats would later divvy up for projects such as the one in Savannah.
“We write to urge you to give special priority to the Construction Account of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program,” stated the June 21 letter, which was signed by every member of the delegation, both Democrat and Republican.
The moratorium on earmarks, the practice of setting aside money for specific local projects in government spending bills, has changed the budget process in profound ways in the six-plus years since it was first implemented by then-U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.