An Update on the Federal Appropriations Process
Are earmarks, the newly reinstated member-directed spending initiatives, working? August’s Congressional recess is a good time to ask – and to reflect on where the appropriations process stands.
So far the process is moving.
The House of Representatives has passed nine of 12 bills; the Senate Appropriations Committee has passed three with more promised in September. One element that is helping the process is newly reinstated member-directed spending initiatives. These are projects requested by members of Congress that provide money directly to named non-profit entities. Examples include funding for health care facilities, schools, transportation and sidewalk improvements, police and fire departments, and community and economic development programs.
How much money are they allocating?
The House bills alone contain more than $3.7 billion for home state projects benefiting both Democratic and Republican members. While that’s a significant dollar amount, it still represents only .25% of the discretionary spending total. These projects do not incur additional debt but rather divert funds already being appropriated to various agencies. The Senate is keeping pace, with more than $2.1 billion in the three bills they have released. Members who made requests, regardless of party affiliation, are positioned to see some of their projects funded.
We can expect a rush to the finish line in the coming months, and we know there will be hurdles along the way. We also know that Congress has again shown its commitment to allow members to direct spending to entities they deem critical in their districts and states.
Gavin Clingham is a partner and senior vice president at Woodberry Associates.