Installing Flake — the scourge of earmarkers everywhere — on the Appropriations Committee is such a good idea it’s a wonder nobody around here thought of it. Oh, wait, they did!
There is a lot of work to be done, and the work will require a high degree of political savvy and a lot of labor if the GOP wants to stop the spending train that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi allowed to run out of control. Spending growth under the aforementioned triumvirate is on pace to exceed 11 percent per year — a modern record. We need to cut that number back, not to the 6.5 percent of the Bush years, but at least to the 4 percent of the Clinton-Gingrich era.
For that kind of work, Boehner is going to need a few fearless stalwarts to clean up the House Appropriations Committee, which notorious influence-peddler Jack Abramoff once astutely dubbed “the Favor Factory.” There is no one better suited to this task than five-term Arizona Republican Jeff Flake. The Approps Committee (as House insiders call it) has become a grazing ground for congressional wildebeests of both parties; they’re happy to go along to get along as long as everyone is getting a nice fat cut for his or her district. If the GOP is going to make good on its promise to trim $100 billion plus from the discretionary side of the ledger, this committee needs to go from grazing ground to killing field. Flake is the kind of predator who could get the job done.
As Spruiell spells out in that piece, Flake has become a master of using obscure House procedures to highlight and to delay — but unfortunately, rarely to stop — obscene spending under both Republican and Democratic Houses, which more or less directly lead to the unprecedented procedural fascism of Speaker Pelosi and Rules Committee Chair Slaughter. In the lower chamber, committees wield virtually all the power in shaping legislation — by the time most bills reaches the floor, the majority whips, the minority protests, and that’s about it. So giving Flake a seat on the Appropriations Committee will dramatically increase his leverage to, as Spruiell puts it, “stop a lot of this mischief before it got started.” Better yet, it will send a strong signal that Boehner and House Republican leadership are committed to real reform:
If Boehner sells the idea of putting Flake on the Approps Committee as his own, then he takes credit for showing a serious commitment to spending restraint on Day One. The move would immediately silence those who are telling the Tea Party, in condescending tones, that the movement has simply restored the spendthrift Republicans who held power from 2002 to 2006. But there are two more moves Boehner could make to give Flake some help on Approps and make it more likely that the committee will be an ally on spending reduction, rather than the enemy it has been in the past. One of those moves is obvious. The other is very counterintuitive.