Big Spender Wins Appropriations Chair

The House Republican Steering Committee last week handed the gavel of the Appropriations Committee to Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), rather than to the more senior Rep. Ralph Regula (Ohio), who is 80 years old and the second-most senior House Republican. The third candidate was Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky. Lewis, 70, was dumped as House Republican Conference chairman in 1992 for being too chummy with Democrats. Many House conservatives told HUMAN EVENTS they were unimpressed with any of the three contenders for Appropriations chair, all of whom are big spenders. Lewis (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 82%), for example, directed $1 million in tax dollars to build a community center named after him in his hometown. He also secured $20 million in tax dollars for the Jerry Lewis Center for Educational Research in his district. “We heard presentations from all three of the candidates and decided to endorse no one in the Appropriations race,” Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), chairman of the conservative House Republican Study Committee, told HUMAN EVENTS. Pence said all three hopefuls gave “weak” responses to Study Committee questions about how they would work to reform the budget process. But, Pence quickly added, “They all did seem to reflect the same view [of the Study Committee] that we’ve got to change the way we spend the people’s money.” House sources said Lewis made a strong presentation to the Steering Committee prior to its closed-door vote and that the number of Californians on the panel (including Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas and Policy Chairman Christopher Cox) enhanced his odds. One member who supported Regula told HUMAN EVENTS prior to the vote: “It does seem a little strange if, when four full committee chairmanships are already held by congressmen from a state that went strongly for John Kerry, a fifth is given to a Calfornian rather than someone from the state [Ohio] that was key in re-electing George W. Bush.” Pence and other conservatives hope Lewis will shake up the committee’s 80-member staff, many of whom are perceived as too accommodating to the Democrats. “We raised this issue with all the candidates for chairman,” said Pence. “They all agreed that personnel is policy and that changing staff personnel and the culture is critical to changing the policy.”