Conservatives are demanding that House Minority Leader John Boehner fill an empty slot on the House Appropriations Committee with a fiscal hawk rather than the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman who could use the position to hand out earmarks for political gain.
“House Leadership has said they are serious about earmark reform, said they are serious about cutting the pork and abuse; it’s time to put up or shut up and put Rep. Jeff Flake (R.-Ariz) on the committee,” said Erick Erickson, editor of RedState.com
When the House returns next week, Republican leadership must fill the vacant seat left on the appropriations committee left by Rep. Roger Wicker (R.-Miss) who was appointed to fill Trent Lott’s (R.-Miss.) Senate seat. According to January 7 Politico story, Boehner is likely to choose RSCC Chairman Rep. Tom Cole (R.-Okla.) to fill the position. “Cole argues the appropriations seat would help him raise money for the cash-strapped NRCC,” reported Patrick O’Conner.
The Club for Growth’s Director of Government Affairs Andy Roth said this strategy would backfire. “If they take a pass at Flake, then the base’s frustration will only continue. That means closed wallets and fewer voters come Election Day,” Roth said.
Flake has been the House’s most vocal critic against earmarks, often challenging pet projects on the floor late into the night to shame the members. Each week his office issues an “Egregrious Earmark of the Week” press release. The most recent, sent out on January 4, highlights a line-item for “dairy farm profitability in Pennsylvania” tucked into the Omnibus appropriations bill that will cost taxpayers $375,000.
FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe pointed out that “Last year Flake’s staff even caught an earmark going directly to a lobbying firm.”
On January 8, Flake wrote a letter to Boehner asking to be put on the committee. “Wouldn’t it make sense to have at least one Republican member of the Appropriations Committee who doesn’t earmark?” Flake asked.
The fiery anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist said Flake shouldn’t just be a member of the committee, but that Flake should be at the helm of it. “If we absolutely must have an Appropriations Committee, Flake should be the ranking member,” Norquist said.