Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of the United States, Canada and Mexico

House and Senate Procedural Rules concerning Earmark Disclosure *

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of the United States, Canada and Mexico

House and Senate Procedural Rules concerning Earmark Disclosure *

Article excerpt


During 2007, both the House and Senate established new earmark transparency procedures for their separate chambers. They provide for public disclosure of approved earmarks and the identification of their congressional sponsors.[1] In addition, they require disclosure of further information from each congressional sponsor, such as a certification that the sponsor has no financial interest in the earmark. Each House has also established procedures regarding new spending earmarks added to conference reports.

The House originally established its procedures through adoption of two House resolutions. On January 5, 2007, the House completed action on H.Res. 6 (110th Congress), adopting the 110th Congress rules package, including new provisions in House Rule XXI to require public disclosure of approved earmarks, their sponsors, and the additional information.[2] On June 18, 2007, the House adopted a standing order, H.Res. 491 (110th Congress), to require transparency for new spending earmarks added to conference reports on the 12 annual regular appropriations bills. On January 6, 2009, the House adopted the rules package for the 111th Congress, H.Res. 5 (111th Congress), which incorporated the provisions of H.Res. 491 into House Rule XXI, clause 9.[3]

In the Senate, Rule XLIV was adopted through the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-81), [4] which became law on September 14, 2007. The new rule provides for public disclosure of each "congressionally directed spending item," its sponsors, and "no financial interest" certifications. It also includes a procedure to strike certain new items of spending added to conference reports.

This report describes and compares the procedures and requirements in House and Senate rules, including the House requirement regarding the use of earmarks as leverage for votes. In addition, individual House and Senate committees may have additional requirements for earmarks submitted for their consideration, but these are not covered in this report.[5]

When submitting an earmark request, there may also be other considerations relevant to the individual Member's request, such as whether the earmark should be included in the text of the bill or the committee report accompanying the bill. Committees may make an administrative distinction between these two categories in terms of the submission of earmark requests, and there may be policy implications of an earmark's placement in either the bill text or the committee report as well.[6]


For purposes of the procedures discussed below, both House and Senate rules [7] provide definitions for spending earmarks, limited tax benefits, and limited tariff benefits.

Spending Earmark Definition

The spending earmark definitions in House Rule XXI, clause 9, and Senate Rule XLIV are identical, except the identification of earmark requesters.

For purposes of all the disclosure requirements above, a spending earmark is a provision in legislation or report language8 that meets specific criteria. First, the provision or language is primarily included at the request of a Representative, Delegate, the Resident Commissioner, or Senator under the House rule (or a Senator under the Senate rule). Second, the provision or language provides, authorizes, or recommends a specific amount of discretionary budget authority, credit authority, or other spending authority for certain purposes (1) with or to an entity, [9] or (2) targeted to a specific state, locality, or congressional district. The purposes are a contract, grant, loan, loan guarantee, loan authority, or other expenditure. Finally, any of the above spending set asides that are selected through a statutory or administrative formula-driven or competitive-award process are excluded.

The definition is broad. It includes earmarks funded or recommended in appropriations legislation, as well as other non-appropriations legislation (such as authorizations), conference reports, and accompanying report language. …

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