House Republican leaders went with Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) – a.k.a. “The Prince of Pork” – to chair the House Appropriations Committee. As I wrote last week, the prospect of Rogers chairing appropriations is about as inspiring as re-heated meatloaf when it comes to his potential for pushing serious spending reforms.
Republican leaders in the House chose to ignore the concerns of tea party activists and other proponents of limited government, who were more supportive of Rep. Jack Kingston’s (R-GA) dark-horse push for the chairmanship. Kingston’s plan to “change the culture” on appropriations offered a lot of positive ideas suggesting that he was more in tune with the voters that gave Republicans the majority.
Politico reported that Kingston received “the cold shoulder” from the House leadership in his bid to chair appropriations. Instead, Speaker-elect John Boehner supported spending-hawk Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) bid for a seat on the committee. That’s nice, but Flake himself appears to recognize that his appointment could amount to a token gesture if old bull spenders end up ruling the roost:
“If it’s just putting a few conservatives on the committee, and leaving the current structure pretty much in place, that’s not enough.”
Some congressional Republicans have defended Rogers’ chairmanship, saying that he’ll be fine if he sticks to what he says he’s going to do. A long-time champion of earmarking, Rogers did agree to go along with a ban on the tawdry practice a few weeks ago, which was convenient timing.
Will the leopard change his spots?
The left-wing Think Progress blog recently used a FOIA request to obtain a letter Rogers sent to the Department of Health and Human Services requesting Obamacare money for a community service center in his district. No earmarks? No problem for Hal Rogers. He can just go the time-honored route of policymakers heckling federal agencies for pork. Earmarks represent just one of many ways that parochial-minded members steer benefits to their districts at the expense of taxpayers and the general public good.
According to Bloomberg, Kentucky’s Lexington Herald-Leader called Rogers “the very model of an old-fashioned pork-barrel politician who builds an empire out of government spending.” Roger’s website contains numerous pictures of him attending local photo-ops for projects he helped fund with federal taxpayers’ money. (I suppose one argument in his favor is that lifting all those ceremonial spades means he’s probably in good shape to handle the rigors of chairmanship.)
The support for Rogers from House Republican leaders is a slap in the face of voters who demanded change in Washington—change from the big-spending ways of both Democrats and Republicans.