The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Flake, et al. to POTUS: Veto Earmarks!

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact

On Tuesday, March 7, 2017, at a time when the U.S. House of Representatives is contemplating a return to the “insidious” practice of “earmarking,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), joined by a handful of his colleagues, wrote to President Donald J. Trump urging the nation’s chief executive to veto any legislation that includes earmarks.  According to Sen. Flake’s website, the junior senator from Arizona believes that “such a veto threat would likely bring an end ongoing efforts in the House to bring back the wasteful and corrupt practice of congressional earmarking.”

The text of the letter, which was also signed by U.S. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), is reprinted below.

Also from Sen. Flake’s website:  “On Jan. 10, 2017, the Senate Republican conference voted to approve Flake’s amendment to extend the chamber’s moratorium on earmarking into the 115th Congress. For more information on Flake’s successful amendment, click here.

On Jan. 31, 2017, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) co-hosted, along with the House Republican Study Committee (RSC), an anti-earmark briefing, including perspectives from Sen. Flake and other members of Congress, both current and retired.  Relevant letters from the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) to Congress on this issue can be seen here (“CCAGW to House Republican Conference:  Vote NO on Earmarks!”) and here (“To Chairman Sessions:  Do Not Restore Earmarks”).

Letter from Sen. Flake, et al., to President Trump:

March 7, 2017

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump,

With our national debt set to top $20 trillion within days and growing at a rate of over half-a-trillion dollars a year, bringing fiscal sanity to the federal budget requires immediate attention and action.  We write today to urge opposition to any efforts by Congress to return to earmarking.

While cutting unnecessary and wasteful spending may be commonsense to most taxpayers, behind every dollar spent is a boisterous special interest group with the loudest being Congress itself.  Even with a full agenda that includes repealing Obamacare, reforming the tax code, easing the regulatory burden and strengthening our nation’s security, some lawmakers are focused on reviving the corrupt practice of earmarking that was ended in 2011 after what seemed like an endless series of corruption scandals.

Fondly described as a “favor factory” by a lobbyist convicted of exchanging gifts for government grants, earmarks represent the pay-to-play culture you have pledged to end.  It is unfathomable to those of us who fought to end earmarks and witnessed our colleagues go to jail for corruption that pork barrel politics would return, especially at this time when Americans are clearly fed up with business-as-usual. However, despite the success of the current moratorium enacted in both chamber of Congress, there are efforts underway seeking to revive the disdainful practice.

President Reagan vetoed a highway bill in 1987 because it was larded up with 152 earmarks.  Escalating exponentially, the over-budget transportation bill signed into law in 2005 contained more 6,300 earmarks.  Earmark proponents are trying to reassure that this time will be different, promising fewer projects and even rebranding them as “congressionally-directed spending.”  With the serious fiscal problems facing our nation, processing thousands or even hundreds of pork requests will only distract and delay addressing pressing national needs and push spending decisions once again into the murky shadows.

We respectfully urge you to make it clear that you will veto any bill Congress sends to you containing earmarks within the legislative text or the accompanying report.  We look forward to working with you to make Washington more accountable and stop wasteful spending where it starts, which is often right here in Congress.


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