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Hope and Change!

It seems that incoming GOP freshmen would rather be on the Government Reform and Oversight Committee than nab a once-prized Appropriations slot.

About two weeks ago, Speaker-to-be John Boehner found himself in an odd conversation with a young Republican House member. Their talk may rank as the most compelling example yet that the huge midterm GOP victory will produce real change in Washington—not just change in the familiar political sense, but down-the-rabbit-hole change, in which the world as we understand it seems to disappear.

Boehner was trying to “lure” Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah onto the Appropriations Committee. Yes, lure. The 43-year-old, first-term lawmaker was hesitating over appointment to the vaunted panel, long regarded as one of the best perches in all of Washington. For most House members, Appropriations is the summa of committee assignments. A seat on the panel brings power, prestige, and lobbyists’ cash. It’s earmark heaven, too.

Chaffetz said no.

[A]t two separate orientation conferences—one at Harvard University and the other at Heritage—informal surveys of 49 of the 85 incoming GOP freshmen revealed not one who identified Appropriations as his or her No. 1 committee choice. “They all saw it as a foreign entity,” Franc said.

[Republican Rep. Jim] Jordan says that the leadership is having trouble finding freshmen willing to serve on Appropriations, an unheard-of circumstance that suggests, at least for the time being, that spending and the perks that historically have come with it are radioactive.

“It’s a testament to what I hope and believe is a culture shift,” said Jordan, who admitted that he steered clear of Appropriations in part to solidify his bid to lead the conservative Republican Study Committee—a hotbed of GOP antagonism toward appropriators.

However squishy the old hands might be inclined to be on fiscal responsibility, it’s nice to see the new blood demonstrating that they won’t just dive into the swamp.


H/T Ace

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About Dodd
Dodd, who used to run a blog named ipse dixit, is an attorney, a veteran of the United States Navy, and a fairly good poker player. He can kill a mime using only his thumb. He joined the staff at OTB in May 2007. Follow Dodd on Twitter.

Comments

  1. wr says:

    Right — why work on a committee where you’re forced to make hard choices about allocating money when you can spend all your time subpoenaing officials to ask them gotcha questions about phony controversies.

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  2. Alex Knapp says:

    However squishy the old hands might be inclined to be on fiscal responsibility, it’s nice to see the new blood demonstrating that they won’t just dive into the swamp.

    So wait…. we’re supposed to take a “fiscal conservative” who refuses a post on the Appropriations Committee seriously? Isn’t that where a fiscal conservative would MOST want to be, so they have more leverage over spending?

    Looks like the freshmen are cowards unwilling to work towards the achievement of their professed principles to me.

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  3. Dodd says:

    Looks like the freshmen are cowards unwilling to work towards the achievement of their professed principles to me.

    #ohFFS

    And if they’d been clamouring for Appropriations spots promising just that instead of avoiding them as the deepest part of the swamp they are, you’d doubtless be arguing they just want to join the old Boy Brigade and start handing out goodies.

    I suppose one sees what one wants to. But one doesn’t need to be on the Appropriations Committee to pursue one’s principles. Purposefully avoiding what used to be a highly-desired spot shows more commitment.

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  4. Alex Knapp says:

    @Dodd,

    Who has more influence over budgetary items in the House? Someone who (a) is on the Appropriations Committee, or (b) is not on the Appropriations Committee.

    The answer is (a).

    So if someone comes into office promising to reduce spending, and they are serious about it, would they choose to (a) if offered, take a seat on the Appropriations Committee or (b) if offered, decline a seat on the Appropriations Committee?

    The answer, again, is (a).

    Declining a seat because of the “Good Old Boy” Network effect only strengthens the GOB Network, because it makes it more likely that the Appropriations Committee will remain as is. Accordingly, this ENTRENCHES the kind of spending that the Tea Party Republicans claim to oppose.

    Accordingly, the decision by incoming Tea Party Republican freshmen to decline a seat on the Appropriations Committe indicates a lack of seriousness about their promise to their constituents to restrain spending.

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  5. Dodd says:

    Piffle. One sees what one wants to, I guess. And their own stated reasons for their choice are obviously unworthy of any attention when they contradict what one wants to see.

    Every single member can influence spending with votes and political maneuvering. The actual seat on Appropriations is only genuinely useful if one wants to ladle out pork. But Oversight & Reform can directly effect the whole government — including the Old Boys. Even Hal Rogers has been reigned in, so they say. The goal is for Appropriations to just be another Committee, so why treat it any differently?

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  6. Andyman says:

    @Dodd,

    “Every single member can influence spending with votes and political maneuvering.”

    Precisely. So the freshmen are savvy enough to want someone else to do their dirty work. Then they can act shocked- shocked!- that that earmark showed up with their district on it. Meanwhile they’re putting their fingers on the scales to help the guys brave enough to actually show up for Appropriations work.

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  7. Tano says:

    “And their own stated reasons for their choice are obviously unworthy of any attention when they contradict what one wants to see.”

    Now that is hilarious, Dodd. Maybe you could make arguments like this and be taken seriously if you would ever take a Democrat at their word for what their motivations are for the things they do.

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  8. ratufa says:

    At this point, it’s all posturing by the newly-elected Tea Party folks and speculation by the peanut gallery.

    I’ll be impressed (even if I don’t agree with them) if/when the GOP freshmen show a public willingness to push unpopular fiscal & government reform measures. And by “unpopular” I mean not just unpopular with those voters who would never vote for them anyway.

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  9. Dodd says:

    Now that is hilarious, Dodd. Maybe you could make arguments like this and be taken seriously if you would ever take a Democrat at their word for what their motivations are for the things they do.

    While being “taken seriously” by you is not really a priority of mine, you do seem to be assuming a lot about what I think. You shouldn’t.

    I like the gestures I’m seeing as we approach the opening of the new Congress. So far, they seem to “get it.” I’ll be all over them if they don’t follow through with some substance once the 112th commences, but I’ll take anyone at his word who backs up his words with actions.

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  10. mantis says:

    The actual seat on Appropriations is only genuinely useful if one wants to ladle out pork.

    Not if your party is in the majority. Pack the committee with anti-porkers, and cut off the flow entirely. If that’s what the party were interested in, it could happen. Instead…cowardice. Which you applaud.

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  11. Dodd says:

    Ace posted a follow-up on this topic that makes a good deal of sense:

    DrewM., Gabe, and Dave @ Garfield Ridge (and lots of commenters) all point out that this isn’t all good, since the restraining force of Tea Party members would be lost….

    I should have mentioned that, and my guess: While Garrett is noting the “trouble” they’re having getting Tea Partiers on Appropriations, it’s my assumption he’s focusing only on the no’s, and that I am guessing at least some Tea Partiers say yes…

    So for me, the more important part was about the change in attitude, and not in the implication that the Party of Appropriations will have free reign, with no Tea Partiers to restrain them, because it’s my hunch that will not happen. Just because Appropriations is diminished as a plum perch doesn’t mean, I don’t think, that literally everyone will say no to it. I don’t think the Tea Party, or anything else, can change the rule that a lot of politicians have ambition.

    That’s pretty much what I said, too: The change in attitude is worthy of applause. The anxiousness to hurl specious charges of “cowardice” reveals more about the preconceptions of the hurler than the incoming majority.

    Think what you like. I think their attitude is refreshing.

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  12. Herb says:

    Are you sure this is the result of a change in attitude and not spinning one’s inability to fill committee spots?

    This paragraph reads as pure spin:
    “[Republican Rep. Jim] Jordan says that the leadership is having trouble finding freshmen willing to serve on Appropriations, an unheard-of circumstance that suggests, at least for the time being, that spending and the perks that historically have come with it are radioactive.”

    I suppose it could “suggest” other things, up to and including cowardice. The truth is, we’re not sure why they’re “having trouble finding freshmen willing to serve on Appropriations.” It could be that it’s radioactive. It could be cowardice. It could be a simple lack of interest. That you snapped to the possibility that shows them in the cleanest, most ideologically pure light suggests you being way too credulous here.

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  13. mantis says:

    The change in attitude is worthy of applause. The anxiousness to hurl specious charges of “cowardice” reveals more about the preconceptions of the hurler than the incoming majority.

    I wasn’t talking about their preconceptions. I was talking about their actions and choices.

    You give them a pass for not wanting to be on the appropriations committee, where you well know they could be most effective at–you guessed it–controlling appropriations, and in fact you applaud them for it. This is why many of us long ago concluded that conservatives are full of BS. You talk constantly about how evil earmarks and appropriations and deficit spending are, but when the people you elect do the exact opposite of what they should do to achieve the things you claim to want when voting for them, you not only keep voting for them, you thank them for it! What the hell is wrong with you people?

    I’ll lend you a quarter and between that and the Republicans “refreshing attitude” you can get yourself a pack of gum.

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  14. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder if this…

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/gop-exempts-deficit-busting-policies-from-new-budget-rules.php

    …should be considered “refreshing” too?

    These sad Tea Party types and their fellow travelers are going to be so disappoined with the establishment GOP leadership…oh well, I guess they’ll just have to stage another “revolution”…

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