The Return of Earmarks

House Republicans and President Trump have signaled an interest in evaluating whether congressional earmarks could be restored for the first year since 2011. That discussion has rekindled a long-running debate in higher ed about the appropriations tool and whether colleges should pursue earmarks at all.

That’s been a moot point since 2011, when Congress, led by conservative Republicans, banned earmarks. The spending provisions are essentially any language included in legislation by an individual lawmaker directing spending to a particular project. And they make up just a tiny fraction of overall federal discretionary spending. But many earmarks were substantial -- well over $10 million in many cases -- and the projects were never reviewed on their scientific or educational merits.

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