Fresh from the 2010 mid-term election season, Republicans and Democrats on the hill are jockeying for leadership positions many were already speculating about prior November 2nd. While House Democrats take sides over how wise it may be for current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to remain in a top leadership position, as Minority Leader, when the GOP officially takes over the House majority in the beginning of next year, questions surrounding who will take over committee chairmanships among Republican members still need to be sorted out.
Freshmen Republican, many of whom were favored by local and national tea party organizations, campaigned on lower taxes, less spending, banning earmarks, and repealing the massive health care legislation passed in March by the Democratic Congress.
With such conservative fiscal policy platforms that launched these individuals into office as well as helped re-elect long time Republican incumbents in the House, some wondered why the top two contenders for the Chairmanship of the powerful House Appropriations Committee are two long time Republicans, Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky and Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, who are known for pushing earmarks and bringing pork laden projects back to their own states.
However, according to some Republican members, Mr. Rogers and Mr. Lewis may not be as threatening as some might think. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, appears confident that the influx of new members could very well be what is causing older members like Rep. Lewis and Rep. Rogers to be singing a different tune lately.
“Some of those guys have come a long way. We’re seeing things from those guys that I’ve never thought we saw before. They’re actually saying out loud that they’re going to continue with the moratorium on earmarks, which is shocking,” Rep. Chaffetz, told me on Tuesday morning. “There is safety in numbers. 80 percent of our conference has been here three terms or less. So this body is going to change, and some of the old dogs have to understand that, and I think that they’re starting to embrace it. If they don’t, they’re going to get run over by the herd of new folks like myself,” he said.
Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican, who is a member of the Appropriations Committee and the new GOP transition team, along with Mr. Chaffetz, is quick to defend Rep. Rogers and Rep. Lewis and told me that balancing the budget has more to do with what happens on the House Committee on Ways and Means than the Appropriations Committee. The Committee on Ways and Means is the oldest in U.S. Congress and acts as the House of Representative’s chief tax-writing committee.
“I think that criticism is unjust. Jerry Lewis and Hal Rogers are very senior members. The last time the Republicans were in charge, they actually held discretionary spending below the rate of inflation. That’s the first that had been done in many years. That’s something the Democrats didn’t manage to achieve during their four years. If you give appropriators a number, the route is they’ll hit the number,” he said.
Rep. Cole finished, “The real challenge, I have to say, is Ways and Means. What really imbalances the budget isn’t an appropriated dollar as it tends to be entitlement spending and tax policy. Two thirds of the budget is entitlement spending and interest on the national debt. I think you have to look more broadly than the appropriations committee.”