Congress boosts spending on ‘earmarks’ to universities

The US$1.7 trillion spending package that Congress passed on 23 December 2022 does more than fund the entire United States government in 2023. Senators and members of the House of Representatives from both parties also used it to funnel US$15 billion to 7,200 projects in their districts that federal funding agencies never requested. The projects include new research facilities and academic programmes at hundreds of public colleges and universities, wrote Jeffrey Mervis for Science.

This spending signals the robust resurgence of earmarks, the sometimes controversial – and until recently banned – practice in which legislators use their constitutional authority over federal spending to benefit their constituents. The dollar amount and number of earmarks rose by half over this year, according to one count by The New York Times. The 2023 total also tops levels seen before Congress banned the practice in 2010 after some notorious earmarks drew widespread ridicule – and figured in the conviction of one lawmaker for accepting bribes.

However, in early 2021 Congress removed the ban starting with the upcoming 2022 fiscal year. Proponents argue that such directed funding addresses local and state needs, increases support for must-pass spending bills, and serves as a counterweight to the spending priorities of the executive branch.
[url=https://www.science.org/content/article/u-s-congress-boosts-spending-earmarks-universities]Full report on the Science