Congressman Jack Kingston's Three Hats

When writing about Rep. Jack Kingston, I never know how to refer to him. The Georgia Republican has so important roles, which one trumps the others?

Should I call him vice chairman of the House Republican Conference? Or would it be better to cite his membership on the powerful Appropriations Committee? And then there’s his membership on the conservative Republican Study Committee.

I raise the point because this week Kingston found himself in an awkward spot wearing three hats.

It all started last Friday when House Republicans were sent home without finishing the budget. To sum it up: Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R.-Calif.) didn’t like the budget reforms being pushed by conservatives at the Republican Study Committee and House GOP leaders.

Then on Sunday, Majority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio) went on national TV to criticize Lewis and the Appropriations Committee—of which Kingston is a member—for standing in the way of earmark reform.

I asked Kingston, a member of the House GOP leadership, to address the topic Monday during a conference call with bloggers. He told me, “I think Jerry Lewis is tired of the Appropriations Committee being the whipping boy. Because, again, on earmarks, the big granddaddy earmark that got everybody in so much trouble wasn’t on an appropriations bill, and yet the Appropriations Committee is the only one that’s going to get earmark reform.”

The Republican Study Committee, of which Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) is the chairman and Kingston is a member, has stayed silent this past week. But based on its past positions—see its “Contract With America: Renewed”—the RSC would be on Boehner’s team, not Lewis’.

So where does this leave Kingston? I asked his communications director David All, who defended his boss after I criticized Kingston yesterday for trying to shift the blame away from the Appropriations Committee.

David shared with me some examples of Kingston’s accomplishments on fiscal matters, so I’ll share them with you:

  • As a subcommittee chairman under the Appropriations Committee, Kingston cut spending two years in a row. For his work, Kingston won the praise of 28 Republican colleagues for the “leadership you have shown in the area of fiscal restraint during your entire career in Congress.”
  • Overseeing the Legislative Branch Subcommittee, Kingston canceled hearings with agencies that submitted budgets with grossly inflated what they needed to spend.
  • Kingston is a co-sponsor of the Line-Item Veto Act, legislation that Lewis opposes.
  • On, Kingston outlined what he calls his American Renewal Project, which includes several fiscal-related reforms.

There’s one thing I have to say about Kingston: He likes wearing many hats. And to some members of Congress, that’s part of the treat. I don’t fault Kingston for taking on so many roles—especially because he’s an effective communicator and darn good messenger—but it’ll certainly be interesting to see how things play out—with him and the budget.

UPDATE — 11:28 p.m.: I’ve posted a couple more items about Kingston. Over at Human Events U, you can read about his support for the Academic Bill of Rights. And on the Right Angle, don’t miss my post about his leadership with right-leaning bloggers