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Leahy won’t commit to even earmarks split with GOP

'We'll work it all out,' Leahy says

Senate Appropriations Chairman  Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., left, and ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., talk in the Capitol last fall.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., left, and ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., talk in the Capitol last fall. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy may no longer be planning to set aside half of earmarked funds for Republicans, a commitment he made months ago that his Republican counterpart expected as part of the upcoming appropriations process.

“We just want to start having the bills and we’ll work it all out,” Leahy said Monday when asked if he still planned to give GOP senators half of the earmarked dollars in fiscal 2022 spending bills.

Leahy was vague about the possible change in course, referencing Senate Republican party rules, which still technically include a permanent ban on earmarks. Senate Republicans decided to leave the nonbinding prohibition in party rules during a closed-door meeting April 21, though several GOP senators have said they plan to request earmarks as part of the fiscal 2022 process.

A couple weeks before the meeting, Leahy said he would split earmarks 50-50 with Republicans if they requested them.

“I’m perfectly willing to divide it equally between Republicans and Democrats. And so it will be up to them if they want it. If they don’t, we’ll just have it on the Democratic side,” the Vermont Democrat said at the time.

Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., also received assurances from Leahy that the earmark funding would be split evenly between the two parties in the Senate appropriations bills.

“Chairman Leahy not only said publicly that it would be a 50/50 split, he gave Vice Chairman Shelby his word — with no caveats — that that would be the deal,” Shelby’s communications director Blair Taylor said in an emailed statement. “Chairman Leahy has never broken his word to Vice Chairman Shelby.”

Senate appropriations earmarks requests are due starting in mid-June with staggered deadlines depending on the bill. Three subcommittees aren’t accepting earmark requests: Legislative Branch, State-Foreign Operations and the giant Defense bill, which came close to $700 billion in fiscal 2021 (PL 116-260).

House Appropriations Committee earmark deadlines were in late April, and that panel intends to start marking up its draft bills on June 24.

Ellyn Ferguson contributed to this report.

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