Jerry Lewis Endorses Flake for Appropriations

by Stephen Spruiell

The feedback from my piece about why John Boehner should put Jeff Flake on the Appropriations Committee went roughly as follows: “Great suggestion, except for that whole part about giving Jerry Lewis another term as chairman. Are you nuts?”

Look, I am fully aware of Lewis’s track record, having written extensively about it at the time. But none of the realistic options are very good, and vice versa. Have you taken a look at the Appropriations Committee’s membership lately? You would have to go outside the committee to find a proven and committed cutter, and the odds of Boehner making an outsider chairman are essentially zero.

Because Lewis needs a special waiver to get around a term-limits issue, he is making promises that conservatives can hold him to. And, to get to the point of this post, he just endorsed Jeff Flake for Appropriations.

That’s a good start. But Lewis should keep trying to persuade the skeptics by endorsing a few solid freshman for the committee, too. In the March 6, 1995 issue of National Review, some guy named Rich Lowry wrote a great piece about the difficulty of shaking up the Appropriations Committee, even in a year when Republicans were feeling quite revolutionary indeed. “Junior committee members,” he wrote, played a crucial role:

Freshman Mark Neumann (R., Wis.), in a piece of almost suicidal chutzpa, bucked his chairman on the Defense Subcommittee on his first vote, opposing a supplemental defense bill that was not yet paid for with cuts elsewhere. “Fortunately, I didn’t know at the time it was a courageous vote,” Neumann says. “I just did what I thought was right.”

Lewis’s endorsement helps, but Flake’s membership on the committee is ultimately up to Boehner. This is an important test for him. Let’s hope he passes.