Since the 2010 midterms, Republican lawmakers have gone to war over earmarks. In the Senate, the battle culminated in pro-earmark Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s concession to Sen. Jim DeMint’s call for a (non-binding) ban on earmarks from GOP senators on Monday.
Despite the House’s similar ban on earmarks, the debate in the lower chamber hasn’t generated the same fireworks as it has in the Senate. With candidates for the chairmanship of the appropriations committee—which directs a sizable chunk of federal money, including earmarks—touting their fiscal conservative bonafides in their pursuit of the gavel. But some of the top candidates for the job, including California’s Jerry Lewis and Kentucky’s Hal Rogers, have garnered pretty pork-friendly reputations over the years.
In a letter to the members of the House Republican Conference, Georgia Republican Jack Kingston threw his hat in the race for committee chair. Kingston, the fifth-ranking Republican on the committee, cites his spotless conservative credentials, including perfect ratings from FreedomWorks and the Eagle Forum, and his record of cutting spending as the chairman of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee [of the Appropriations committee] “when Republican spending was at its worst.” And on earmarking, he cites his 2007 bill calling for a moratorium on earmarks and bipartisan hearings on reforming the practice.
While federal spending has spun out of control, earmarks “got out of hand numerically and in the quality or the substance of them…and [are] things that the federal goernment should not be involved in,” Kingston told Mother Jones recently. Given the tea party’s momentum, Kingston’s anti-earmark and fiscal conservative credentials could make him an attractive candidate for the powerful approps committee post.