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Democrats dangle billions of dollars in infrastructure earmarks in front of conflicted Republicans

Ahead of President Biden's next big piece of legislation, one Democrat says the party is "perfectly willing" to evenly divide spending earmarks with Republicans — but if not, they'll happily take them just "on the Democratic side."

A Tuesday report from Bloomberg discusses the "heated debate" in the Republican Party about whether to take part in the return of spending earmarks as Biden prepares for a major infrastructure package, with fiscal hawks opposed to bringing them back and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) arguing they "have been associated with excess and would represent a turn to the worst."

At the same time, Bloomberg writes that Democrats believe Republicans ultimately "will go along once they see billions of dollars set to flow" to their colleagues' Democratic districts.

"I'm perfectly willing to divide it equally between Republicans and Democrats, and so it will be up to them if they want it," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said. "If they don't, we'll just have it on the Democratic side. But I think enough of them would like to have it on both sides."

Romney predicted that the majority of Republicans will agree with his assessment that spending earmarks are "not necessarily in the national interest but are more akin to the seniority of a particular individual to ask for a particular benefit," though Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) told Bloomberg he actually believes about 60 percent of members support bringing back earmarks.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn't expressed his position yet, and Republican leaders were reportedly unable to come to a decision on the matter after a recent meeting. Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) told Bloomberg that "we're having conversations" about whether to allow earmarks in the bill, but "nothing definitive" has been decided. Read more at Bloomberg.