Some freshmen Republicans in the region are looking for U.S. House leaders to relax a ban on earmarks so they can help manufacturers in their districts. This, despite campaigning on pledges to ban Congressional earmarking.
Earmark is one of the dirtiest words in Washington these days, but now a debate is swirling over its definition. Republicans leaders were asked by 65 House members to exempt a tariff bill from a ban on earmarking. The 600 some odd tariff exemptions only help a small number of manufacturers bring supplies into the U.S. at reduced rates.
Virginia Republican Congressman Scott Rigell denies that they're earmarks, because any company can purchase the products, though precious few will.
"Well, I do believe it's fully consistent with our ban on earmarks, and I think that the ban on earmarks in this Congress in contrast to previous Congress sessions is really admirable," said Rigell.
Arizona Republican Senator John McCain has been a leading voice of opposition to earmarks in Congress. While he's still looking into the specifics of this latest attempt to bypass the earmark ban, he says something smells fishy: "It smacks of earmarks. People will always try to get around the ban."
Two other freshman Republicans from the region also signed the letter asking for tariffs to be exempted from the earmark ban: Maryland's Andy Harris and Virginia's Morgan Griffith.