New York State’s longtime Senator Chuck Schumer (D-Brooklyn) has been elected Senate Minority Leader, making him the most powerful Democrat in America. Many influential members of the incoming Congress are pushing to amend its rule to bring back the practice of earmark spending, which has been banned since John Boehner took over as Speaker in 2011.
If that ban is reversed, Schumer will have enormous influence over “pork barrel” spending, which was often allocated by legislators with political considerations in mind. While many in the Senate are pushing for the reversal, Speaker Paul Ryan is pushing back hard against the suggestion.
“We just had a ‘drain the swamp’ election,” Ryan told his members behind closed doors this week. “Let’s not just turn around and bring back earmarks two weeks later.”
The Republican members of the House agreed to put off the issue until the first quarter of 2017. The proposal was on track to pass in a closed door meeting before Ryan articulated his reservations.
Supporters argue that the ban went too far, prohibiting Congressmen from directing funding needed projects in their districts. The shift gave too much power to the White House, they say, allowing unelected bureaucrats at federal agencies decide where to spend.
Whether the ban is reversed or not, Schumer will be the most powerful Democrat in America for at least the next two years, and very likely longer. It is time for Western New York to hold him accountable for the resources and public investment that the long-declining region needs badly.