Early next week, Republicans in Congress face a decision that will say much about the party’s future direction on spending discipline.
Rep. Roger Wicker is going to the Senate to replace retiring Sen. Trent Lott, leaving a rare open seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
The Appropriations Committee controls the spending levers for most of the federal government. And too often, both parties abuse that power to insert “earmarks” that divert your tax dollars to special interest projects. In recent years, these earmarks have included millions to build a rainforest in Iowa and the famous “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska.
In 2006, the American people showed that, when given a choice between Democrats and Republicans who act like Democrats, they will pick the Democrats. The Republican Party needs to return to its fiscally responsible roots in order to regain public trust on this key issue. Sometimes, you need to shake up business-as-usual in order to make real change.
That’s where Congressman Jeff Flake comes into the picture. Rep. Flake, a Republican from Arizona, is a close ally of fiscal conservatives who has made a name for himself on Capitol Hill for his stalwart stand against the practice of earmarking. He consistently puts the spotlight on pork spending in his weekly “Egregious Earmark” press releases and in frequent speeches on the House floor. Last year, he offered dozens of floor amendments to strike funding for some of the most abusive earmarks.
Jeff Flake is serious about reining in spending and has done a heroic job fighting waste. But he can do even more by attacking the issue at its choke-point from inside the Appropriations Committee.
The earmarks process is deliberately complicated and difficult to monitor. Members of Congress who are not on the Appropriations Committee have little time to even review them. For example, the “omnibus” appropriations bill passed last month contained more than 8,000 earmarks spread over 3,417 pages, and most Members of Congress had only 22 hours to read it before the vote.