U.S. Rep. David Price said earmarks are a sliver of federal spending.
The Chapel Hill Democrat, who chairs a House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, said that they make up a tiny fraction of his spending bills.
"This is important, but it's not a major chunk of the federal budget," he said.
Last year, 120 earmarks worth $415.6 million were in the homeland security appropriations bill, which totaled $40.1 billion. That's just over one percent of the spending.
He said the far more important questions the subcommittee dealt with were how much to spend on immigration enforcement, a major chunk of that budget. Other decisions such as whether to continue funding the F-22 dwarf earmarks, he argued.
"Believe me, that's far more consequential than trying to get a grant for a high-tech firm in one's district," he said.
Still, he said the earmarks process is time-consuming. He estimated it takes up about 10 percent of his time as an Appropriations cardinal.