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Conservatives' Goal Is a 'Disappropriations' Panel

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Nunnelee is one of a new generation of conservatives joining the House Appropriations Committee with the goal of changing the panel’s culture.

But several of these newer Republican appropriators say they are making headway on committee operations and they expect the panel to move to the right in coming years. “Our overall goal is to bend the curve on excessive government spending, and I think we’ve been somewhat successful in that area,” Nunnelee said.

Graves, now third in line to receive a subcommittee chairmanship, said he sees a “paradigm shift” under way. There’s a “new viewpoint: Let’s focus not on spending taxpayer dollars, let’s focus on saving taxpayer dollars, and that is probably the new culture of the committee. It’s a culture of accountability. It’s one that when agencies come before us, it is a new day for them,” he said.

Other younger appropriators said the rightward shift on Appropriations has come squarely from Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

“I’m not taking any credit away from anybody, but I’ll tell you that is a charge that’s coming from Chairman Rogers and he’s been very emphatic, very strong about the fact that we’re going to cut and prioritize spending,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who is in line for a subcommittee chairmanship in the next Congress.

Rogers said he does not expect the addition of more conservative members to change a panel that already is “doing the conservative cause.” “We’ve actually cut discretionary spending more than any time since the Korean War, so I take it we were already conservative,” Rogers said.

These conservative appropriators may be tested when faced with adhering to a conservative agenda while cutting deals on the upcoming fiscal 2015 appropriations bills.

The trio’s voting history suggests that although they are a part of the hard-right conservative movement, they have proved to be members GOP leadership can count on for must-pass fiscal legislation. All three voted to support the December budget agreement (PL 113-67) and to raise the debt limit in early 2013 (PL 113-3), in contrast with some of the Republican caucus’s more hard-line members.

All three also voted in January for the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending package (PL 113-76) even though they previously backed a lower spending level of $967 billion under the fiscal 2014 budget blueprint spearheaded by House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis.

Yoder said supporting the higher spending level in the omnibus was consistent with his limited-government beliefs.

“If your options are a spending bill that cuts spending for the fourth year in a row, a [continuing resolution] that doesn’t make any adjustments to spending, thereby continuing bad programs, or a government shutdown, a spending bill is preferable,” he said. “It’s still not perfect — we’ve got a long way to go. The growth in spending is on the mandatory side, and that’s where we need to focus now. Entitlement reform would be a touchdown; this omnibus got us a couple first downs.”

“Discretionary spending is just a piece of the overall budget,” Graves said. “As long as the overall spending is being reduced: That’s how I approached it.”

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