Transportation chiefs in Congress were a bit stymied over the last two years when they crafted a surface transportation bill that didn’t have earmarks. House Republicans were resolute in their determination to get rid of the legislative goodies that have given elected officials a bad name. But it also made a transportation legislator’s life that much more difficult: It’s hard to write legislation about maintaining roads, bridges, runways, and transit without identifying the specific areas that need tuning up. It’s even harder to pass it.
Lawmakers have a similar challenge before them this year in the Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct water-related projects such as flood control, port improvements, and river cleanup. Some transportation experts point out that WRDA, which dictates the country’s major water infrastructure projects for the next five to 10 years, is actually nothing but earmarks.
“How do you move a WRDA bill forward when historically it’s been line after line, naming a project, naming a study,” Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said at a National Journal event last week. “We’re trying to figure out a way to live through the moratorium on earmarks, which is very difficult.”