The bridge to nowhere would have been splendid. Hundreds of millions of dollars to build an enormous bridge to a tiny island off Alaska’s coast. Where, thankfully, a ferry instead continues to provide good service at a very reasonable cost. Because the infamous bridge to nowhere did not get built. Not yet at least. But this is what earmarks get you. Cozy, corrupt relations between beltway lobbyists, members of Congress, local politicians, and favored contractors. That’s the whole point of earmarks.

And now 3 GOP members of Congress want to start peeling back the restrictions on earmarks that have been in place since 2010. John Culberson of Texas’ 7th congressional district. Mike Rogers of Alabama’s 3rd congressional district. And Tom Rooney, of Florida’s 17th district. The vote is secret and conservative GOP members of the House are trying to make sure the nays win.

Do these three, and others who will vote in favor of easing restrictions and allowing earmarks to return to the floor of the House – not to mention the Senate – even care about the recent election? Do they even care about voter anger at beltway politicking?

There’s another name worth remembering: Jason Grumet, President and founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center, or BPC. He has recently written in the Washington Post in favor of earmarks as a way to entice members of Congress to vote the tough issues. As well, the BPC like to hold what they call Bridge-Builder-Breakfasts. There’s nothing like the promise of targeted pork spending to bring people across party lines to sit down for a little coffee and deal making. And the Bipartisan Policy Center is dedicated to “principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation, and respectful dialogue.”

Did they hold a Bridge-Builder-Breakfast with Alaska’s Ted Stevens and chat about his bridge to nowhere? What does reasoned negotiations mean? You block my earmark and I will vote against every bill you or anyone in either party bring to the floor until I die of a heart attack or get voted out? And perhaps respectful dialogue is code for: how dare you talk to the media before you clear it with me!

That’s the thing. If people like Jason Grumet get their way, and earmarks are brought back to get the logs rolling again on Capitol Hill, then the tough votes tend not to get taken. They often don’t even make it to the floor. But there’s also another implication. Infrastructure spending will likely be a big budget item in the coming years. Lots of it. And how all that money is allocated will depend in part on how this secret House vote goes. If earmarks are slowly allowed back on the floor of the House, then Trump’s presidency won’t be about draining the swamp. It will be about building an enormous and expensive bridge over the swamp.

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