Anti-Earmarker Jeff Flake Gets the Nod for Appropriations; “Prince of Pork” Abdicates for Chairmanship

It looks like the anti-spending brigade will get some support on the powerful House Appropriations Committee — incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner has said he backs fifth-term Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake’s bid to be named to Appropriations.

Flake, a major spark in the anti-earmark efforts and a strong proponent of free trade, was a thorn in the side of the free-spending Republicans and had been relegated to some less influential committees.  In fact, Flake was “purged” from his position on the House Judiciary Committee (as reported in 2007 by Robert Novak) for his “bad behavior” — his outspokenness and actions against earmarks and Republican leaders. 

His principled positions were duly noted by free market policy groups. He was rated the most fiscally conservative House member by the National Taxpayers Union, a Taxpayer “Super Hero” by Citizens Against Government Waste, and the top free trader by Cato Institute. Undeterred by his slapdown, in 2008 Flake asked for an Appropriations seat but was turned down.  Here’s what he said in his 2008 letter:

One of the major factors in our loss of the Congressional majority in 2006 and subsequent losses this month is that House Republicans have made ourselves indistinguishable from Democrats on federal spending.  Voters simply no longer associate us with limited government.

Earmarks make up a small fraction of the federal budget, but they receive an inordinate amount of public attention.  It is difficult for Republicans to convince voters that we have turned a corner on spending if we continue to use the House Appropriations Committee as little more than a vehicle for securing earmarks.

But how things have changed.  With a cadre of newly elected anti-spending representatives in Congress, Flake, with his own 66.3 percent of the vote in his district, finally got the nod from the Republican leadership. Here’s what Boehner said in his statement endorsing Flake for Appropriations:

“I support Congressman Jeff Flake [R-AZ] in his effort to be appointed to serve on the Appropriations Committee, and I join with incoming Majority Leader Cantor in expressing hope that other reform-minded Members of Congress will follow Jeff’s example in seeking appointment to the committee.”

Flake’s not letting any grass grow under his feet.  He’s already asking for a new Investigations Subcommittee to be established under the aegis of Appropriations.  Its task?  Here’s what appears on Flake’s website:

Taxpayers deserve an Appropriations subcommittee dedicated to investigations. Such a subcommittee will:

–Send a clear message to taxpayers that the Committee is serious about spending oversight;

–Shoulder the burden of the Committee?s oversight duties, freeing individual subcommittees to focus on crafting responsible spending bills;

–Implement a thorough and responsive oversight agenda focused on cutting waste, reducing duplication, and increasing transparency. Selected potential topics in what would be a long and full spending oversight agenda are below.

Here’s hoping he’ll get that subcommittee — and some more anti-spending colleagues on Appropriations. That may not be easy, since Kentuckian Harold Rogers was named to be chairman of the Appropriations Committee.  He had in the past been called the  “Prince of Pork” — but vows that as chairman he’ll rein in government spending and hold to the Republican moratorium on earmarks.

Image credit: Right Winger’s flickr photostream.