Trump endorses earmarks despite conservative opposition

President Trump on Tuesday endorsed the idea of reviving so-called earmarks – projects and spending items added to appropriations bills on behalf of individual lawmakers.

“Our system lends itself to not getting things done, and I hear so much about earmarks — the old earmark system — how there was a great friendliness when you had earmarks,” the president said during a White House meeting on immigration attended by multiple lawmakers.

“But of course, they had other problems with earmarks. But maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks,” he continued.

Trump’s sympathetic view comes as Republicans in the House are floating the return of limited number of earmarks, though with a new set of rules and restrictions to curtail abuse.

Earmarks would use taxpayer’s money to fund projects in lawmakers’ districts without the need for the competitive process as required for other federal spending.

The practice was banned in 2011 by House Republicans, who said at the time that it corrupts lawmakers and encourages them to support bad legislation just so they could add earmarks and fund projects back at home.

Instances of soliciting campaign donations from those who received the earmarks or the lobbyists who advocated for them became rampant. Former California Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham spent seven years in prison for taking bribes in exchange for earmarks.

But Speaker Paul Ryan is a lot less enthusiastic about earmarks. “Conversations are having a comeback,” Ryan replied Tuesday to a question if earmarks are making a comeback. A year ago, Ryan also led the way to block any efforts to revive the practice.

Club for Growth President David McIntosh, whose group supports the campaigns of conservative candidates, oppose the comeback of earmarks, calling it “antithesis of draining the swamp” that will benefit only “the special interests that grow government at the expense of working men and women.”

The Rules Committee is expected to hold a hearing next week on the subject. Republican Chairman Pete Sessions said the committee will try to understand in what ways the earmarks could be reformed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.