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Tom Cole is shaking up the earmark process, and Democrats aren’t happy about it, claiming this is all about cutting off funding to LGBTQ-related projects.

Tom Cole makes his mark on earmarks

Brand new House Appropriations Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) is shaking up the earmark process, and Democrats aren’t happy about it, claiming this is all about cutting off funding to LGBTQ-related projects.

In a “Dear Colleague” to members today, Cole declared that non-profits can no longer receive earmarks.

Cole is also giving members only until May 3 to get their earmark requests in for the FY2025 spending bills. That’s a really fast turnaround considering that Congress just passed the last of the FY2024 bills a month ago.

Here’s Cole:

This gets a little complicated, but it really only impacts certain earmarks under the Transportation-HUD spending bill. On their own volition, House Republicans – meaning Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who wanted to be Appropriations Committee chair – banned similar earmarks on the Labor-HHS bill.

This left THUD, as it’s known, as the only vehicle for such earmarks. And now Cole is cutting that off.

Back in a July 2023 THUD markup, several LGBTQ-related earmarks were removed from the bill under a Cole amendment. This set off a huge fight within the subcommittee, with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) calling the move “bigoted” and “insane.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) released her own statement today bashing Cole’s announcement.

Here’s DeLauro:

There are several points to make here.

Republicans included millions of dollars of earmarks for non-profits in last year’s THUD bill for some of their most endangered members. For instance, vulnerable GOP Rep. David Valadao (Calif.) got $9 million for a homeless shelter. New York GOP Reps. Andrew Garbarino and Anthony D’Esposito steered more than $6.6 million to two different non-profits. Even former Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas), who is retiring, got $5 million for a Fort Worth YMCA. All these would be barred under the new policy.

Cole is under pressure from more conservative Republicans on this issue. Of course, many DEI, transgender and other culture war-related provisions from House Republicans didn’t make it into the final FY2024 spending bills. But a ban on flying LBGTQ Pride flags at U.S. embassies did. The White House has vowed to overturn this ban.

The House already allows members fewer opportunities to offer earmarks than their Senate counterparts. For instance, the House doesn’t do earmarks on the Labor-HHS or Financial Services and General Government bills. The Senate does. This disparity puts House appropriators at a disadvantage when negotiating with the Senate on the final version of annual spending bills.

— John Bresnahan

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