GOP must pick the right committee chairs

This week, House Republicans will choose committee chairmen for the 112th Congress. As they do so, GOP caucus leaders and members alike should keep firmly in mind that Americans have given them nothing more than a probationary opportunity to preside in the lower chamber. Their mandate is to do what they always promised to do in the past but never got around to actually accomplishing — reducing the size, cost and power of the federal government.

Americans are watching what the Republicans do this time around with unusual interest. It is therefore vital that Republicans get off on the right foot by choosing new chairmen who will bring fresh ideas and creative thinking to the challenges facing America.

If Republicans instead restore those who led their party to defeat in 2006, it will be clear they really didn’t get the voters’ message Nov. 2 — that business as usual in Washington is no longer acceptable.

Two committees will have special importance in the 112th Congress. First, given the underlying message of the 2010 elections — government is spending, taxing and regulating too much — Republicans should choose Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., to chair the House Appropriations Committee. Kingston’s call for a spending cap at 18 percent of GDP is a solid first step in the right direction.

His rivals — former Chairman Jerry Lewis of California and Hal Rogers of Kentucky — are Republican old bulls who epitomize the earmark-corrupted spending culture that has dominated Congress under the control of both parties for too long. The House GOP moratorium on earmarks must be enforced, and that requires a strong appropriations chairman who will not play legislative games.

The appropriations panel holds the purse strings for the congressional chamber that holds the government’s purse strings. If it is properly led, it can stop the plans of President Barack Obama and his Democratic congressional allies to keep increasing federal spending and debt and to use bureaucratic regulations to vastly expand government power.

Second, to lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., is the best choice among the four candidates. He is committed to repealing Obamacare, and he understands the critical importance of unleashing America’s vast energy resources.

Of the remaining three, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., is rightly viewed with skepticism for his social-liberal positions, and for his support of the 2007 measure forcing Americans to buy politically correct light bulbs. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, whose views are well within the Republican mainstream, nonetheless removed himself from serious consideration when he went soft on BP during the Gulf oil spill crisis. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., like Obama, is a dogged supporter of ethanol mandates and subsidies — precisely the sort of big government/corporate welfare regime that Republicans should use their new power to dismantle.

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