- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2010

House Republicans on Tuesday picked Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky as chairman of the chamber’s powerful Appropriations Committee — a move that would put the panel with direct control over vast amounts of federal spending in the hands of a longtime supporter of earmarks.

In another spirited battle, Republican leaders picked Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, considered a relative moderate, to lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The full House GOP membership is scheduled to vote on the House Republican Steering Committee’s recommendations, although the vote is seen as little more than a formality.

Both Mr. Rogers and Mr. Upton defeated several fellow senior Republicans, including challenges by the two committees’ current ranking minority members who were vying for the chairman posts.

Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, the Appropriations Committee’s ranking Republican, and Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas, the energy panel’s top Republican, faced party-imposed term limits on their leadership posts. Both had petitioned the steering committee to waive the rule and allow them to take over as chairmen when the party assumes control of the House in early January.

Mr. Rogers said in a prepared statement that he looks forward to “fighting for serious reforms of the committee, bringing fiscal sanity back to our budgeting process, performing vigorous oversight of the failed job-creation policies of the Obama administration and moving our nation forward.”

But how the pick will play with fiscal conservatives and “tea party” activists in the large GOP freshman class is unclear.

Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonprofit government watchdog, reported that in the previous fiscal year Mr. Rogers sponsored 50 earmarks — congressional pet spending projects inserted into legislation — worth about $93.4 million.

Mr. Upton, who has served on the Energy and Commerce Committee since 1991, promised to immediately adopt new rules to cut spending and restore fiscal responsibility.

“If we have learned anything these last two years of soaring unemployment and out-of-control spending, it is that government is not the answer to all our ills — it is, in fact, the root cause of many of them,” said Mr. Upton in a statement.

“The Obama administration is on notice - they will not be allowed to regulate what they have been unable to legislate.”

Mr. Upton faced opposition from some conservatives upset with several of his past votes, including his support of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout in 2008 and his vote against extending some of the Bush administration’s tax cuts in 2005.

FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group led by former House Republican leader Dick Armey, said the Michigan lawmaker’s record is “full of votes for more regulation, more spending and more taxes.”

GOP Reps. Cliff Stearns of Florida and John Shimkus of Illinois also had challenged for the energy panel’s chairmanship, considered one of the most influential gavels on Capitol Hill, with major influence over energy, health and regulatory issues.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, the Ohio Republican who leads the steering committee, has had a tense relationship with Mr. Barton and was expected by many to deny the Texan a waiver.

Among other chairmen-designates for the new GOP-led House announced Tuesday were Reps. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California for Armed Services; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida for Foreign Affairs; Peter King of New York for Homeland Security; David Camp of Michigan for Ways and Means, and Spencer Bachus of Alabama for Financial Services.

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