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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With the Senate done battling over President Biden's coronavirus rescue package, it's preparing to tackle another priority: earmarks.

Driving the news: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top members on the Senate Appropriations Committee, are expected to work out a deal restoring the congressional spending tool in the coming weeks, committee aides tell Axios.

  • Earmarks give lawmakers the power to direct spending to pay for special projects in their districts. They've already been reintroduced in the House.
  • The process faces tougher obstacles in the Senate, given its razor-thin majority, though lawmakers are hopeful Leahy can reach an agreement with Shelby.
  • Two Democratic committee aides tell Axios that if Republicans refuse to come on board, they expect Leahy will drop earmarks altogether rather than try to push through a Democrat-only proposal.

Behind the scenes: For years, Appropriations Committee members have privately complained about the absence of earmarks.

  • “Congress has the power of the purse laid out by the Constitution, directing where U.S. taxpayer dollars will go," a committee aide said."The idea that some bureaucrat in D.C. has a better idea of where funding should go in these districts and states, than the representatives themselves, is absurd."
  • The aide said most Appropriations Committee members share the sentiment.

Leahy and other pro-earmarks lawmakers have a couple of tools to help restore earmarks:

Joe Biden. He was very effective in using earmarks while in the Senate, and successfully used them to get funding for Dover Air Force Base and other projects in Delaware.

  • While no one in the executive branch will openly admit they like earmarks, since they cede power to Congress, the president "certainly understands earmarks and their value," one aide said.
  • Biden has been quiet about the topic, a sign he's giving Congress breathing room to negotiate.

Fresh guardrails. Democrats plan to implement new restrictions making it far more difficult to misuse earmarks.

  • A series of scandals involving members abusing the process prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011.
  • The new rules would limit the number of requests each lawmaker can make; require each earmark to have community support; cap total funding projects to 1% of all discretionary spending, and require members to post their earmark requests on their websites.

The bottom line: The longer they stray from 2011 and the more turnover in their chambers, members of Congress will find it more difficult to reinstitute them.

Go deeper: Here come Earmarks 2.0.

Go deeper

Bernie Sanders: U.S. must recognize that "Palestinian rights matter"

Sen. Bernie Sanders. Photo: Stefani Reynolds via Getty Images

The United States must encourage an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East and adopt an "evenhanded approach" that recognizes Palestinians and Israelis have a right to "live in peace and security," Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wrote in a New York Times opinion on Friday.

Driving the news: Violence escalated this week after Israelis intensified efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem. Hamas fired rockets and Israel massed troops, leaving more than 125 Palestinians and seven people in Israel dead.

2 hours ago - Technology

Exclusive: Uber makes new hire, launches anti-racism campaigns

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Eager to show progress on the pledge to make its platform and business anti-racist, Uber on Friday announced new anti-racism driver and rider campaigns, as well as fresh internal hiring practices, Axios was first to report.

Why it matters: Uber is one of the biggest ride hailing companies in the world. Its decisions impact the millions that use the platform, where drivers and riders alike say they have experienced racism.

Ex-Gaetz associate admits to sex trafficking, will cooperate with federal prosecutors

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl) speaks during the "Save America Summit" at the Trump National Doral golf resort on April 09, 2021 in Doral, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Staff via Getty Images

Joel Greenberg, a former associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and admitted to a variety of federal charges including sex trafficking a minor, the New York Times reported Friday citing court papers.

Why it matters: Investigators believe Greenberg introduced women to Gaetz for paid sex and are looking into the Florida congressman's alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Greenberg could be a key witness as federal prosecutors decide whether to charge Gaetz.