Wall Street Journal: House GOP Duels Over the Spoils of Victory

This article originally appeared on WSJ.com on November 20, 2010.

House GOP Duels Over the Spoils of Victory

By: Patrick O’Connor

To the victor belong the spoils, the political proverb goes. The fights over which victors get what spoils will make December a wild month for House Republicans.

The House Republican caucus ratified Rep. John Boehner (R., Ohio) as their speaker in waiting with little drama this week.  The contests to chair some top committees are a different story – more like a reality show where people who don’t like each other get locked in a house full of cameras.

The contest to run the Appropriations Committee has now turned into a three-way affair with Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston officially putting his name into contention Friday against California Rep. Jerry Lewis, who needs a waiver from party leaders for another two-year term, and Kentucky Rep. Hal Rogers.

In a letter announcing his bid, Mr. Kingston plays up his small-government bona fides, calling himself “a committed conservative with a long track record to prove it.” As evidence, he cites the 1% across-the-board cut he imposed on legislative branch appropriations during the darkest days of Republican earmarking, as well as his push to privatize the Capitol power plant and slow the growth of the Capitol Police.

The committee is famous for doling out lawmaker-requested projects, known as earmarks, but in the post-earmark world, the race to chair it has become a referendum on decreasing government spending.

Meanwhile, there was a new wrinkle Friday in the four-way fight to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee. The Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, criticized one of the leading candidates, Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, for having a “mixed voting record on abortion.”

The National Right to Life Committee also criticized Mr. Upton’s support for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, a position at odds with many abortion opponents.

The group wants assurances that Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts will chair the Energy and Commerce subcommittee with jurisdiction over health care. Mr. Pitts led efforts to defeat legislation to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research under former President George W. Bush, and he helped author the Stupak amendment, which barred the recipients of federal subsidies from using that money to secure insurance coverage for abortion.

“Given Congressman Fred Upton’s record, Congressman Joe Pitts’ appointment as chairman of the health subcommittee – the critical subcommittee for abortion policy – is non-negotiable,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

Whoever wins the Energy and Commerce Chair could have to turn immediately to do battle with Washington Rep. Doc Hastings, the top Republican on the Natural Resources Committee. Mr. Hastings is trying to carve jurisdiction over some oil and gas issues away from Energy and Commerce.

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