Now in the House majority, more Georgia Republicans embrace earmarks

WASHINGTON — More U.S. House Republicans from Georgia are requesting earmarks this year, embracing the practice now that their party has majority control.

When Democrats brought back the system of requesting taxpayer dollars for specific local projects in 2021, only two Republicans from Georgia submitted requests. This year, the number is up to five of the state’s nine GOP lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The Rome Republican requested funding for eight projects totaling $14 million. Among the requests is $2.2 million for new radio equipment for the Rome/Floyd Fire Department and $3.8 million for a taxiway expansion at the Richard B. Russell Airport in her hometown.

Greene said she wanted to make sure money flowed to her constituents in northwest Georgia “instead of being sent to New York or California.”

But she had a different outlook two years ago, saying she was against earmarks because allowing members to request funding for projects in their district “leads to pork spending and special interests.”

This year, Republicans are in control and implemented new restrictions on the types of projects members can submit for consideration.

“The 118th Congress couldn’t be more different from Nancy Pelosi’s 117th,” Greene said. “The GOP is focused on being excellent stewards for the American taxpayer. We will only spend money to put America First.”

The requests are just a first step.

Greene and every other lawmaker who submitted the required paperwork now must navigate the lengthy appropriations process. There are no guarantees that any of their projects make it into the federal funding package for the upcoming fiscal year.

And there is additional uncertainty this year over how much money will be available for earmarks. House Republicans have insisted that any agreement with President Joe Biden and Democrats on lifting the debt ceiling be tied to deep cuts in federal spending.

In total, Georgia U.S. House members requested 117 different earmarks with a combined tab of $462 million. The Senate has its own earmarking process, and Georgia’s Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have submitted a total of 661 projects worth $2.6 billion.

Ossoff, an Atlanta Democrat, said he seeks input from local governments and agencies to come up with a list of projects that are deserving of federal funding. Community buy-in is often a main indicator of need, he said.

“We inform them that when we see breadth and unity of local support, that’s a signal to my office that this is a community priority,” he said.

Earmarks had been a longstanding practice until 2011 when Republican House Speaker John Boehner put an end to them, citing high-profile instances of abuse and scandal. During the following decade, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle often expressed frustration that they had been sidelined from discussions about funding that could benefit their constituents.

The re-establishment of earmarks in 2021 came with new rules intended to increase transparency and ensure no members would personally benefit. Now, each request is posted online and comes with documentation outlining what the money will be used for and who requested it.

The new GOP majority in the House beefed up the process this year. All requests must be aligned with funding or programs already authorized in federal law. Earmarks for museums, memorials or commemorations are banned.

Still, many Republicans are declining to participate.

While Rep. Mike Collins submitted just one request for water main updates in Jackson where he lives, fellow freshman Rich McCormick said concerns about the national debt gave him pause.

“While I did receive several community funding project requests that I will be looking closely at for the following fiscal year, and I have sent several letters of support for community project funding requests that are running through the Senate offices, I have not yet fully vetted the process and requests that my office received this cycle,” the Suwanee Republican said.

In addition to McCormick, GOP Reps. Rick Allen, Andrew Clyde and Austin Scott also did not submit any requests.

Scott, R-Tifton, is the longest-serving Republican in the Georgia delegation. He said he takes issue with Congress’ refusal to address the ballooning national debt.

“It is way past time to stop spending money that we do not have,” he said.

Data specialist Isaac Sabetai contributed to this report.

GEORGIA EARMARK REQUESTS for the 2024 appropriations year

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Atlanta, $898.2 million requested for 196 projects

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Atlanta, $1.7 billion requested for 466 projects

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, $51 million requested for 15 projects

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, $68 million requested for 15 projects

U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, R-Jackson, $1.8 million requested for one project

U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-The Rock, 26.3 million requested for four projects

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, $14 million requested for 8 projects

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, $34.9 million requested for 15 projects

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, $114.9 million requested for 14 projects

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, $72.2 million requested for 15 projects

U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, $47.7 million requested for 15 projects

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, $31.2 million requested for 15 projects

Did not request earmarks

U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Augusta

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens

U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Suwanee

U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton