Another Turkey from Congress?

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Hoyer and DeFazio want Earmarks BACK

FAA Discretionary $$$ follow well designed prioritization

high national priority ratings (NPR)

Earmarks = TURKEY

In a rare political, philosophical reversal, in the 112th Congress (2011-2012), the Republican leadership of the House and Senate initiated a moratorium on earmarks. Earmarks—formally known as congressionally directed spending—directed a significant amount of federal transportation spending prior to the ban. The oddity comes from the Fiscal Conservatives tend to abjure executive discretion, while Liberal Political Experts perceive that their civil servants are trustworthy in administering the directions from Congress.

Two of the current House majority leaders have announced their intention to take away discretion from career employees at the FAA. See the below two articles highlighting HR Majority Leader Hoyer and then T&I Chair DeFazio want to return the power of directing federal funds to the elected on the Hill.

Third article repeats the history of the earmark debate.

Since this TURKEY was last sighted, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has reviewed this practice and issued a Report. To be clear, this branch of the Library of Congress “works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation” (CRS website).

CRS cover

What did these experts find in their analysis (only useful FAA references)?



About 20% of FAA’s authorized funding goes for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The AIP is both a formula and a discretionary grant program. All development projects identified in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) are eligible for AIP funding. Generally, about two-thirds of funding is distributed as “entitlements” through formulas set forth in the authorization act. Entitlement funds may generally be used for any AIP-eligible projects.

However, FAA policy and statutory requirements discourage airport sponsors from using entitlements for lower-priority projects if they are also seeking discretionary funds. This linkage with the availability of discretionary funds is a tool that FAA uses to make airport sponsors think twice about using entitlement funds for low-priority projects.

FAA oversees the distribution of AIP entitlement funds and enforces compliance with the eligibility criteria. Unlike the Federal Aid Highway Program, federal aid to airports flows directly to the airport sponsor, usually an airport authority. After the entitlement funds are apportioned, whatever is left over is available for discretionary grants. Airports compete against each other for discretionary grants in the sense that they compete against each other for high national priority ratings (NPR) within the Airport Capital Improvement Plan process, which is a subset of the NPIAS and is developed by FAA, airport sponsors, states, and planning agencies. AIP discretionary funds were often earmarked substantially before the earmark ban. Earmarking moved an airport up the priority list and provided funding. On the other hand, it also moved the non-earmarked projects down. The discretionary funds are also subject to set-asides for nationwide priorities set by Congress, such as the 35% noise set-aside and the 4% Military Airport Program set-aside. Prior to the earmark moratorium, some earmarks also appeared in the F&E account of the FAA budget. The most significant of these were for projects under FAA’s Tower/Terminal Air Traffic Control Program and the Instrument Landing Systems Program. The priorities for spending under these programs also are established through a national planning process. According to DOT’s inspector general, earmarking delayed some projects assigned high priority through this process while funding lower-priority projects. Virtually all aviation earmarks occurred in appropriations legislation.

CRS recognizes that the FAA AIP entitlement formulas prioritize airport needs by a well-designed set of criteria. AIP, by act of Congress, is meant to serve the needs of a NATIONAL AIR TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM, not the needs of a Congressional District’s aspiration to  “build an airfield and they will come.”

Spanish Ghost Airport

Hoyer and DeFazio

Hoyer: Earmarks are likely coming back next year

No. 2 House Democrat is optimistic Republicans, Democrats will participate if change goes through

Posted November 20, 2020 at 12:13pm

House Democratic leaders are proceeding with plans to bring back earmarks for the 117th Congress, according to Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer.

Hoyer, D-Md.,  said in an interview Friday that sometime after the Appropriations Committee’s new chairwoman is elected the week of Nov. 30, she will begin soliciting House lawmakers to “ask for congressional initiatives for their districts and their states.”

The three candidates to replace retiring House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., are all on board with restoring “congressionally directed spending,” as it has come to be known.

Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida had previously endorsed the return of earmarks. Connecticut’s Rosa DeLauro had hesitated but now “unequivocally” backs restoring line items for members’ districts after further conversations, an aide said.

Hoyer said all three support, with leadership’s backing, transparency measures similar to those in place a decade ago before the practice was banned entirely. That includes making a project’s requestor publicly available as well as the justification for spending taxpayer dollars on it, and clearly noting in legislation which provisions constitute member-requested items.

T&I logo

Rep. DeFazio on Earmarks Ban: ‘Don’t Think We Need That Rule’

December 5, 2018 3:00 PM, EST

The next chairman of the transportation policy panel in the U.S. House of Representatives said the ban on earmarks the GOP imposed nearly a decade ago is no longer needed.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) told an audience at an event hosted by The Atlantic magazine on Dec. 5 the ban is “nonsensical” and said that, if properly applied, earmarks can be useful.

Prior to the ban, members of Congress often dedicated federal funds for specific projects in their districts. At times, earmarking allowed a lawmaker to bypass authorizing committees.

DeFazio will lead the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee beginning in January and acknowledged he has sought to reform the earmark process.

“Do we think that all of the wisdom on how to better serve the people of your district, of your state if you’re a senator, comes from [U.S.] DOT in D.C. or your state DOT? No,” DeFazio said.

“If we have a totally transparent process with people who are more accountable than the Secretary of Transportation, or more accountable than the bureaucrats who run your state agency, you might get some projects done that they’re ignoring,” he said.

Concerns raised by watchdog groups, academics and congressional observers about potential misappropriation of funds related to earmarks helped to convince Republican leaders to ban them after the 2010 Tea Party wave elections. Earmarking funds for Alaska’s “bridge to nowhere” — a project spearheaded by that state’s late Sen. Ted Stevens — brought the issue national exposure.



 MARCH 3, 2019earmark poster

Calling Earmarking “Article I” actions is putting lipstick on a pig

FAA uses well-established procedures to Prioritize Projects

National not local criteria with federal funds

Place-naming any project is a ZeroSum Game

Chairman DeFazio, a long term member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, has decided that “Article I” naming of airport projects to receive immediate AIP funding. “Earmarking” gets the proverbial “pig with lipstick” treatment by this Constitutional reference.

There is a far more responsible requirement to make this Article I action truly responsible.

The Chairman’s proposal, some responses thereto and the FAA prioritization precede a proposal on what a Member must be to claim priority for the local project over the national list.


DEFAZIO TARGETING EARMARKS RETURN: House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) is planning to bring back earmarks — just don’t call them that, please. His language of choice is “Article I projects,” named after the article of the Constitution that established the legislative branch of the federal government.

citizens Against Governmentt t

Citizens Against Government Waste Responds to Chairman Peter DeFazio’s Earmark Announcement

Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) President Tom Schatz responded to House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who announced that he would formally bring back pork-barrel earmarks in order to pass a transportation bill in 2019. Chairman DeFazio was named CAGW’s January 2019 Porker of the Month for his earlier support of earmarks.

CAGW President Tom Schatz issued the following statement:

“Chairman DeFazio’s statement is false, misleading, and disingenuous. Rebranding earmarks as ‘Article 1 projects’ insults the intelligence of the American people, who know that such expenditures are costly, inequitable, and corrupting. Earmarks have cost taxpayers $344.5 billion since 1991 and landed several members of Congress and lobbyists in prison. They are disproportionately doled out to members of the transportation and appropriations committees.

“Earmarks also cause members of Congress to vote for bills that they ordinarily would not support in exchange for a few million dollars in projects, a process akin to legalized bribery.

“Earmarks undermine higher priority projects and local initiatives. A 2007 Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General report found that, ‘earmarked projects considered by the agencies as low priority are being funded over higher priority, non-earmarked projects,’ and, ‘some earmarks are providing funds for projects that would otherwise be ineligible.’ For three DOT agencies, 99 percent of the earmarked projects ‘were not subject to the agencies’ review and selection processes or bypassed the states’ normal planning and programming processes.’

“Chairman DeFazio mentioned the constitutional power over ‘post roads’ in his statement. He neglected to add that Thomas Jefferson said that allowing members of Congress to make decisions on where such roads should be constructed will be ‘a scene of eternal scramble among the members, who can get the most money wasted in their State; and they will always get most who are meanest.’ James Monroe said that the power to spend money on infrastructure projects should be ‘limited to great national works only, since if it were unlimited it would be liable to abuse and might be productive of evil.’

“Earmarks have been and always will be a clear and dangerous abuse of the budget process. They are an affront to taxpayers and we will fight tooth and nail to eradicate them once and for all.”


How Congressional Earmarks and Pork-Barrel Spending Undermine State and Local Decisionmaking

Analysis of Discretionary Spending for Fiscal Years 1996-98

RCED-99-160R: Published: May 18, 1999. Publicly Released: May 28, 1999.


Transportation Spending Under an Earmark Ban



How Does FAA Determine Which Projects Will Receive AIP Funds?

Because the demand for AIP funds exceeds the availability, FAA bases distribution of these funds on present national priorities and objectives. AIP funds are typically first apportioned into major entitlement categories such as primary, cargo, and general aviation. Remaining funds are distributed to a discretionary fund. Set-aside projects (airport noise and the Military Airport Program) receive first attention from this discretionary distribution. The remaining funds are true discretionary funds that are distributed according to a national prioritization formula.

FAA’s website includes very visible, easily understandable, lengthy list of guidance for funding of AIP and how those Federal Funds are carefully husbanded by the “bureaucrats.” See here:

Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA) for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP)


Benefit-Cost Analyses (BCAs) help identify proposed projects that will provide a net benefit to the aviation community. We require BCAs for all capacity projects that require more than $10 million in AIP discretionary funds but can request them for less costly projects, as well.

Airport Benefit-Cost Analysis Guidance

Additional BCA Guidance


turkey and pork


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