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- Former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn suggested Republicans might deserve to lose the House if they bring back controversial earmarks.
- President Donald Trump expressed support for bringing back earmarks in a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
- The House Rules Committee is slated for a hearing on potentially returning earmarks to Congress on Wednesday.
WASHINGTON – Former Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said the GOP deserves to lose majority of the House if they continue the newly resurfaced effort to bring back earmarks, which Congress did away with several years ago.
Republicans have begun discussing the prospect of bringing back the practice many fiscal hawks and watchdogs have described as the ultimate corruption in Congress – securing large amounts of money for projects often used as political favors.
“Maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks,” President Donald Trump told a group of bipartisan members of Congress on Tuesday. “You should do it.”
Many lawmakers immediately began licking their chops at the prospect and 24 hours after Trump’s comments, the House Rules Committee scheduled a hearing for Wednesday to discuss whether earmarks should return to Capitol Hill. Coburn told Business Insider in an interview that he denied an invitation to testify at the hearing, citing prior commitments.
“Go look at what happened in the past. It was corruption,” Coburn said. “It either benefitted the politician, their family, or one of their donors and that was routine.”
Coburn said that the eagerness to bring back the practice for the “well-connected and well-heeled” would most assuredly result in massive losses for the Republican Party in the coming midterm elections in November.
“This is all appropriators that want to do this and young members of Congress that have never seen the corruption associated with it,” Coburn said. “If the Republicans are that tone deaf that they actually have a hearing on it when they can’t pass a budget and can’t fix the [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] problem, I’m not sure they deserve to be in the majority.”
“I was in 32 states last year. I’m talking to all sorts of people – Democrats and Republicans – and they’ve had it,” Coburn added. “So they’re walking on very thin ice if they think they can restore earmarks and not lose control of the House. They will absolutely lose it.”
While Coburn said the possibility of significant Republican losses in 2018 is real, coupled with the increasing amount of abrupt retirements from top Republicans, he believes that “turnover is good” regardless of party and is the better solution to get Congress back on track.
“If you’re bringing in fresh new people no matter what their party affiliation, if they really have some real world experience, then they can add to the debate in our country about fixing our problems,” he said. “Our problem is not a lack of earmarks.”