The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) released a new searchable database today, allowing the public to search for “any Member-designated projects submitted by any Member of the House of Representatives in legislation originating in the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the 110th and 111th Congresses.”
This comes as part of a series of moves meant to increase transparency and accountability in House Member projects.
At the start of the 110th Congress in January 2007, the House adopted new earmark rules establishing:
(1) For each project request, a Member of Congress must certify that neither the Member nor his or her spouse has a financial interest in the project; and
(2) each committee report must identify any Congressional earmarks included in the bill.
In a statement, T&I Chairman James L. Oberstar (Minn.) said he has worked to “vigorously enforce” the House earmark rules. And since the start of the 111th Congress, the T&I Committee has established stricter rules. For legislation originating in the Committee, Members of Congress must provide:
(1) Specific information on the type, location, total cost, percentage of total cost of the project that the request would finance, and benefits of the project; and
(2) at least one letter of support for the project from state or local government agencies; certify that neither the Member nor his or her spouse has any financial interest in a project requested; and
(3) post requests for projects on the Member’s website.
The new database allows you to search project requests by the Member’s name, state, Congressional district, bill, bill title, and amount. Each of the Member-designated project also includes the ‘no financial interest’ certification, and beginning with H.R. 5892, the support letter from the state or local government.
While this is a promising development — making it easier for the public to stay informed about possible “pork barrel” spending — it would be better if all of the committees had such a database, particularly because many transportation projects are not actually listed in the T&I database.