The Republicans, having won back control of the House of Representatives with campaigns that suggested they had learned their lessons about extravagant spending during the Bush years, named their committee chairmen last week. The choices signaled for the most part that the Old Bulls and the old ways may be predominant in the next session of Congress, while Tea Party and limited-government advocates are relegated to the back of the bus.
The trend was most apparent where chairmanships were contested. The Republicans chose Alabama’s Spencer Bachus rather than California’s Ed Royce, for example, to head the Financial Services Committee; Harold Rogers of Kentucky over California’s Jerry Lewis and Georgia’s Jack Kingston to head the Appropriations Committee; and Fred Upton of Michigan over Joe Barton of Texas to head Energy and Commerce. Ralph Hall got the nod over California’s Dana Rohrabacher to head the Science and Technology Committee.
Mr. Bachus is considered fairly conservative (though he has ruffled feathers with critical comments about Sarah Palin), but Mr. Royce took a harder line against stimulus and bailout packages. Harold Rogers landed $248 million in earmarks from 2008-10 — which earned him the moniker “Prince of Pork” from a district newspaper — though he says he now supports a moratorium on earmarks. Mr. Upton, a moderate and unusually “green” for a Republican, now says he will question overreaching EPA regulations. Mr. Hall seems to have been chosen because he had more seniority.
Seniority is seldom a good indicator of a strong desire to change the ways of Washington. John Mica of Florida, for example, who will head the Transportation Committee, is a longtime advocate of more federal infrastructure spending and subsidized high-speed rail. Howard McKeon, from a California high desert district with several military installations and who has been publicly skeptical of defense Secretary Robert Gates’ efforts to trim unneeded military spending, will head Armed Services.
Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who will head the Budget Committee, has put forward proposals to limit government, and John Kline of Minnesota, who will head Education and Labor, has been critical of No Child Left Behind. California’s David Dreier, who will head the Rules Committee, David Camp of Michigan, who will head Ways and Means, are standard-issue Republicans. Darrell Issa of California, who will head Oversight and Government Reform, promises aggressive investigation into the Obama administration.
Bottom line? Don’t expect bold moves to limit government from this crew.