Robert Bluey

Senate Republicans are squabbling amongst themselves over immigration reform. President Bush is fighting a losing battle with his base. But in the House of Representatives, times couldn’t be better for the GOP.

House Republicans have coalesced around the issue of federal spending, handing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a stinging defeat on earmark reform and sending their liberal colleagues a unified message not to exceed the president’s budget requests.

For conservatives who stayed home last Election Day, it’s refreshing to see someone in Washington paying attention again.

Conservatives have Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, to thank for much of what’s happening. Hensarling’s unabashed devotion to fiscal restraint has helped GOP leaders John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) unify Republicans.

Of course, their job was made even easier by Democratic miscues, most notably House Appropriations Chairman David Obey’s attempt to ram through a secret earmark slush fund with no transparency or accountability. The Wisconsin Democrat’s underhanded maneuver gave conservatives a perfect opening, and they took advantage.

One by one, conservatives strode onto the House floor to contrast Pelosi’s promise “to make this the most honest, ethical and open Congress in history” with Obey’s shenanigans. Business in the House came to a standstill, leaving the speaker and her cohorts no option but to cut a deal and hand the GOP a win.

Only days later, conservatives scored their second triumph when Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) managed to round up 147 members to sign a letter vowing to uphold the president’s veto of spending bills that exceed his budget requests. That’s one member more than the 146 needed to sustain a veto.

And it looks like the signatories will have plenty of opportunities to follow through on their promise. Congressional appropriators have been busy stuffing this year’s spending bills with extra fat. The homeland security appropriations bill, for example, came in at 14% more than Bush’s request. He’ll veto it and, if the letter signers hold true to their word, House Republicans will deliver enough votes to make the veto stick.

Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at