There is a lot of talk about the pressure on the 110th Congress by certain factions. But is that the whole story?
It’s a tough life, being a lawmaker. Every problem takes a lot of focus to keep up with. Almost every day, there is some new problem to cope with.
Underneath it all is another issue: the voters who sent you here in the last election. You represent them and they expect you to look after their needs and interests. Just what that means may depend upon what you said to them when you ran for office, and, of course, what you expect to say to them when the next election rolls around.
That’s where earmarks come in. Earmarks are hitchhikers or add-ons to some other legislation, and often are unrelated to the basic bill. Quoting from Earmark Watch:
Through earmarks, members of Congress can secure millions of dollars of funding for a recipient (a private company, nonprofit, university, or a state or local government) or a specific project (building a road, purchasing or setting aside land). Earmarks receive little or no debate from Congress as a whole; they are not subject to competitive bidding or administrative review, and most earmarks are not examined by the press.
There are a lot of earmarks, so it is safe to say that lawmakers like them and use them. And the lawmaker’s constituency like them too.
But what does the lawmaker do when there isn’t any legislation being passed into law?
To borrow an example from the headlines, the airport may be filled with travelers, but nobody is leaving town if there are no planes to take them.
All those earmarks are waiting for some legislation to ride on. The longer they wait, the bigger the pileup.
Now the next election is beginning to loom on the horizon.
Earmarks are mostly about a lawmaker’s home district.
That’s real pressure.