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Wonkology: Programmatic Request

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March 7, 2014


A programmatic request, sometimes referred to as a Member request, is guidance solicited by the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees from Members of Congress. Programmatic requests function in lieu of earmark requests ever since the outright ban on earmarks in 2011.

A slice of the pie

Programmatic requests allow a Member of Congress to suggest an increase to a program that has already been authorized and funded by Congress. For example, multiple senators requested an increase in the Air Force Minority Leaders Program (a nationwide program) in 2011, which would have provided more funds to home state universities participating in the program. By increasing the overall pot of money, the district or state share of the funds would then concurrently increase, thereby allowing the Member to tout having brought home additional funds.

No more bacon

Earmarks were once a powerful way to gain support for large pieces of legislation and to bring federal dollars back home. During the Democratically-controlled Congresses from 2007-2011, earmarks were subject to increased criticism and transparency, and the House Republican Conference then completely banned them when they regained the majority in 2011. As a result, programmatic requests came into vogue so Members could still express local funding needs in the absence of earmarks.

Hungry for more

Due to the breakdown of the appropriations process over the last few years, many Members have not bothered to submit programmatic requests or post them on their websites. With the latest budget agreement, there is hope for a return to regular order for this year's appropriations. The House appropriations subcommittees issued deadlines for filing programmatic requests, which fall between March 17-April 2. The Senate appropriations subcommittees have not yet issued filing deadlines.

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