Earmarks are a more polite way of describing pork -- where lawmakers direct spending for projects in their districts.
Several years ago, when the Tea Party was ascendant, conservatives banned earmarks in Congress. Durbin says that was a mistake.
"Without earmarks, transportation bills became venues for philosophical debates about whether the federal government should be involved in transportation at all."
Transportation funding runs out later this year, and experts say the nation's infrastructure is crumbling. Durbin says he thinks the Obama administration should ask for local input on projects -- rather than have those decisions made by officials in Washington.
He says having more say on spending might also improve cooperation among members of Congress.