The first Congressional discussion of the Earmark Transparency Act will take place today when the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs debates the bill at a business meeting at 2:30 p.m.
The bill, S.3335, was introduced last month by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., John McCain, R-Ariz., Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and would require a centralized, detailed, downloadable database that would track every earmark that members of Congress requested.
Earmarks are federal funds provided by Congress for projects that circumvent the merit-based or competitive allocation processes or curtail the executive branch from managing its responsibilities in the grant allocation process.
Requests for earmarks are currently disclosed in a disparate fashion with non-searchable files posted to more than 550 websites. While earmarks typically account for a small portion of the total discretionary spending budget, they are linked to a high number of congressional scandals.
Full disclosure: Sunlight provided input on the bill, largely based on the Reporting Group’s real world experience of trying to use earmark disclosures in our work. Check out our topic page on earmarks here.