President Donald J. Trump suggested an unusual way Tuesday to get the government running more efficiently – more pork projects, or Congressional earmarks, that have totaled billions of dollars.
“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,” Mr. Trump said. “Maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks.”
The comments were met with laughter from lawmakers who were seated with the president, assembled at the White House for a wide-ranging meeting on immigration reform.
The president argued that rewarding members of Congress for tough votes with money for pet projects would increase the pace of legislation passed.
Earmarks have been banned since 2011, after an avalanche of bad publicity accompanied questionable projects such as a “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska and a taxpayer funded “teapot museum” in North Carolina.
The Washington region reaped some of the most valuable benefits from congressional earmarks, with projects totaling over $8 billion in fiscal years 2008 – 2010.
According to the online database LegiStorm, Virginia ranked sixth, and Maryland eleventh, among the states with the highest value of earmarks before the budget add-ons were banned.
Among the biggest projects, Virginia’s East Coast headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The NGA building in Fort Belvoir is the largest structure delivered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since the Pentagon in 1943.
The construction took in more than $400 million out of nearly $1 billion earmarked for the military installation. The new building completed in 2011 can fit the Statue of Liberty in its atrium.
Maryland secured $214 million for improvements at Walter Reed National Medical Center in 2008, out of $3.5 billion secured for the state through mid-2010.
In a tweet responding to the president’s remarks, Sen. John McCain said earmarks are “the gateway drug to corruption & overspending in Washington. That’s why earmarks were banned & that's why they shouldn’t be brought back from the dead.”