April 16, 2021

How to Make a Minority

So, it appears that not everyone is concerned about being in the minority. The man at the left and his committee are more concerned with earmarks and keeping their seats than they are with whether Republicans or Democrats control the House!

Lewis has positioned himself in the Appropriations Committee, and this committee has more loyalty to the other members in it than it has for those in its own party. It is this committee that controls spending on earmarks and other funds. It is this committee that shot down the proposed changes to help control runaway spending because it would limit their power.

The reforms that Mr. Lewis objected to can only be called modest in any case. In  return for supporting President Bush’s $873 billion discretionary spending limit for Fiscal 2007, the conservatives had sought a few budget “process” reforms. Kevin Brady of Texas wanted a floor vote to establish a commission to sunset federal agencies that have outlived their usefulness. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin asked for a floor vote on the line-item veto–just a vote. Mr. Lewis and his band of spenders would still have the chance to try and defeat it on the House floor.

Jeff Flake of Arizona wanted each spending “earmark” to be identified along with the Member who requested it, so perhaps lawmakers might be shamed into using tax  dollars more responsibly. He assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that a legislative
body that has allowed these pork projects to quadruple in the past five years is still capable of being embarrassed.

Another important reform would have addressed the “supplemental” spending shell game on Capitol Hill, whereby initial spending requests that fall within the limits of a budget blueprint are inevitably augmented by so-called “emergency” spending. And since this “emergency” spending falls outside the budget framework, the sky’s the limit. The proposed reform would have set criteria for what constitutes an emergency, established a rainy day fund for when one occurs, and required a House Budget Committee vote to increase spending beyond the amount in the reserve.

All of this is a far cry from a wholesale and much-needed rewrite of the Democratic budget act of 1974, which Republicans once promised to redo if they ever won the House. That passion has faded as the GOP settled into a cushy incumbent status
quo. But facing a sudden revolt among their own younger Members this year, the House leadership finally agreed to the small reforms. The problem now is that Mr. Hastert, new Majority Leader John Boehner and Majority Whip Roy Blunt can’t seem to exert any leadership over Mr. Lewis. Maybe they’re practicing for taking orders from Speaker Nancy Pelosi next year.

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