Friday, February 15, 2008

House Republicans yesterday selected Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama to fill an open Republican seat on the chamber’s powerful Appropriations Committee.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said the House Republican Steering Committee chose Mr. Bonner because of his dedication to changing the system of earmarks — pet projects inserted by members of Congress into legislation.

“Jo’s appointment sends a message to other [House] members with past earmarking experience: The rules are changing, and the old model is broken,” Mr. Boehner said. “From this point forward, a member’s willingness to change and support dramatic change in the spending process will be grounds for reward, not punishment.”

The committee spot became available after Rep. Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican, was appointed to the Senate to succeed Trent Lott, a Republican who retired from the Senate in December.

Mr. Bonner, who is in his third term in the House, beat out more than a half-dozen colleagues, including Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, one of the most outspoken earmark critics on Capitol Hill. Mr. Flake’s candidacy for the post was backed by several conservative advocacy groups.

Unlike Mr. Flake, Mr. Bonner has regularly requested earmarks for his district. But Mr. Boehner said the steering committee was impressed by Mr. Bonner’s willingness for a moratorium on earmarks, and by his “ability to work with other reform-minded colleagues to force change from within.”

Mr. Bonner said he was “extremely gratified — and obviously deeply humbled — by the confidence of the members of the steering committee.”

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), also had campaigned for the committee spot but later withdrew his name from consideration.

Mr. Cole’s candidacy had caused a minor stir among many House Republicans.

Mr. Boehner, who had a decisive say in awarding the committee seat, has clashed with Mr. Cole in the past year over Mr. Cole’s run at the NRCC. The NRCC, the fundraising arm for House Republicans, raised significantly less money last year than did House Democrats.

Other party members wanted the committee spot to go to Rep. Dave Reichert, Washington Republican, who is in a tight race for re-election and could benefit from a position on an influential committee.

Mr. Reichert said he supports the steering committee’s decision and its “rationale in replacing a member from the Gulf [of Mexico] region with another.”

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