There are 241 Republicans in the House of Representatives, and 29 of them sit on the Appropriations Committee.
Two of the 29 — Jeff Flake of Arizona and Denny Rehberg of Montana — are seeking Senate seats and won’t have to run for re-election as appropriators in November 2012. This is to their great advantage, as it has become apparent early in the 212th Congress that you don’t want to be an appropriator.
Most of the GOP appropriators are anonymous outside their districts. But most are content to labor away spending, spending, spending in national obscurity while being powerful within the Beltway.
The appropriators have emerged in 2011 as triple threats. They threaten the country by continuing to vote for massive deficits paid for with a currency that cannot sustain such a flood of hot money.
They threaten the GOP House majority, because voters were pledged change by a GOP leadership who admitted “they had lost their way” prior to 2006. Rather than change, the appropriators first tried to pass a mere $31 billion in “cuts” for fiscal year 2011, then upped it to $60 billion and used magical thinking to brand that as compliant with the Pledge to America’s promise of at least $100 billion in cuts.
Mostly, though, the Republican appropriators threaten their own re-elections. In this age of new media, instant messaging and Twitter, tea party activists across the country have already figured out their No. 1 opponents are not Democrats, but GOP appropriators.
Expect some to face primary opponents — but far worse, expect organized tea party support for Democratic challengers to GOP appropriators in November 2012. “Republican appropriator” is going to emerge as a branding tag as popular as “Typhoid Mary.”
Watch the April 16 tea party rallies this year. The activists will be holding a huge rally in Sacramento, and the rhetoric that day won’t be about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but about the faithless GOP and especially about the GOP appropriators who are blocking the caucus from taking the steps needed to slash the government’s size, scope and cost.
Don’t be surprised if a roll call is read of the Republican appropriators who are obstructing House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan from pushing forward serious spending cuts and entitlement reform.
Last week, appropriators went public, attacking the deficit hawks and using anonymous staffers to savage conservative budget cutters inside and outside Congress. That petulant move alone cost the NRCC thousands and thousands of dollars, as it became obvious that large numbers of GOP appropriators are no more conservative than your average Democrat on matters of spending.
About two-dozen Republican appropriators stand between the House GOP and serious spending reform. If they cannot be moved, the tea party and conservative activists will seek to remove them. The days of campaigning as a conservative and spending like a Democrat are done. And if the appropriators don’t change, voters sick with worry about a government addicted to trillion-dollar deficits will change them.
Examiner columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at www.hughhewitt.com.