The 112th Congress has not yet been sworn in, but the Tea Party’s anti-business-as-usual mandate is already being felt on Capitol Hill. National Journal‘s Major Garrett reports:
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.
And Chaffetz is not the only conservative lawmaker deciding to turn down the earmarking-factory that is the Appropriations Committee. More Garrett:
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan stopped his fellow Ohioan, Boehner, from even offering him a slot on Appropriations because he also wants to stay with Rep. Darrell Issa of California, who will chair Reform and Oversight, as well as to sit on the Budget Committee.
Michael Franc, a congressional scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told National Journal that at 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.
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.
MSNBC’s Chuck Todd saw this coming months ago:
I think the most striking thing about the minority party today is that a Republican can’t go home, and it is mostly because of this Tea Party crowd, can not go home and sell a piece a pork that they got from Washington. It is now … when you bring home something, saying “Hey I brought federal dollars home to this,” you are on the defensive.”