Concerns surrounding who will eventually take on leadership positions in the new 112th Congress next year are stirring up among Conservative activists in and about Washington, DC.
As Republicans in the House prepare to take the reins from the Democrats, committee decisions must be made as to who will chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
However, conservative movement leaders are leery about what they are hearing over who could possibly end up chairman of House Appropriations. Chairmen and ranking members are term limited, but conservative activists fear that long-time senior ranking members are attempting to remain past their terms by requesting waivers from GOP leadership.
“Jerry Lewis of California, who is almost a poster-child with what’s wrong with the appropriations process is seeking a waiver from the Speaker, so he can take over the appropriations committee,” American Conservative Union’s Chairman David Keene said during a Wednesday bloggers’ conference call. “If he does not get that waiver, then the next ranking member is Congressman Hal Rogers, who is known affectionately as ‘Mr. Pork’ on the hill. It’s [ACU’s] view that there should be no waiver and the Speaker should not intervene on behalf of someone who essentially violates the pledge that he and his Republican colleagues made during the campaign to go after earmarks, spending, and the like.”
The Republican Steering Committee makes recommendations to the entire Republican Conference on committee chair positions. The steering committee is composed of four committee chairs in Republican leadership and is led by current House Minority Leader and presumptive speaker of the House, John Boehner of Ohio.
“Beyond that, it is not an equal committee. The Speaker actually gets five votes and the majority leader gets three votes, so it’s a very weighted system to influence this decision. That is why we are calling on the new Speaker not to endorse a specific candidate, but in fact, just allow a free vote by the members of the steering committee and the members of the conference,” explained ACU’s Larry Hart.
Both Republican Congressman Lewis and Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers are under heavy criticism not just for long histories for pork barrel spending, but Mr. Lewis faced federal investigation in the recent past over earmarks going back to lobbyists in his home district.
Many conservatives are expecting Republicans on the hill to stick to their campaign promises. Voters who are fed up with government spending and who helped the GOP capture the lower chamber’s majority last week would likely turn their backs on the Republicans just as quickly, if there is any hint the new Congress will be business as usual.
“Immediately following the election, John Boehner, who is expected to be Speaker, indicated there would be no waivers for chairmen of committees. Chairmen are term-limited as either chairmen or ranking under the Republican rules, but he has already granted a waiver to David Dreier of California to resume his previous role as chairman of the rules committee. The important committee that we believe is the House Appropriations Committee, particularly in a year when the campaigns have been all about spending,” said Mr. Keene.
Rep. Boehner knows very well who is ultimately responsible for the massive election wins the GOP benefited from and other more palatable names in the Republican Conference are being floated for Appropriations Chairman, like Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia and Iowa Congressman Tom Latham. One of these individuals is probably the smarter choice for heading up the appropriations committee, and Mr. Boehner is not stupid nor is it wise for him to trust big spenders like Mr. Lewis and Mr. Rogers.