Although some young appropriators say they are seeing their conservative views respected on the House spending panel, one former member said that was not her experience on the committee.
Wyoming Republican Cynthia M. Lummis said the specialized culture of appropriators included “arrogant leadership that treated members like non-members,” and that the dismissive treatment of some lawmakers extended to staff members.
“Members of the committee have very little to do with crafting anything except the budget riders, and they aren’t really included in drafting the spending components in the bill,” she said. “It doesn’t give members, especially conservatives, much of a chance to make some suggestions about program consolidations or prioritizing spending.”
Lummis joined Appropriations in her second term in 2011, but she asked to leave ahead of the 113th Congress and says that was due to top appropriators’ unwillingness to budge on spending issues and the lack of input granted to rank-and-file members in writing spending bills.
“We were not even allowed to read the report language after we had voted for our product in subcommittee. They were ripped out of our hands, and I’m not exaggerating. That was just offensive,” she said. “It was just a grandstanding power play, totally inappropriate to treat duly elected members of Congress that way. It was a silly, ‘we’re in charge and you’re not’ kind of effort.”
Now in her third term and chairwoman of a House Science subcommittee, Lummis said she was “repeatedly punished” on Appropriations for her conservative views. She frequently voted against GOP spending bills in committee, a cardinal sin to some in leadership.
“The appetite for spending among those who have spent years waiting to become leaders in that committee, oh my goodness,” she said. “It’s like trying to turn an ocean liner around.”
A House GOP Appropriations aide said “the difficult and demanding work” of the committee “is not for everyone.”
“We are glad that Mrs. Lummis is happy with her new committee assignment,” the staffer added.
Lummis’ departure from the committee came at as a quartet of other hard-line conservative congressmen — including Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Justin Amash of Michigan — were stripped of plum committee assignments by the GOP leadership as punishment for voting against key Republican measures.
Lummis said she is pleased that other young conservatives seem to be content with the direction of the Appropriations Committee.
“It may have taken some of us who were anxious in pushing for some quick reform and getting castigated for it, to really begin now to accomplish some reforms, so I’m really encouraged to hear Tom Graves and others to say that things are changing,” she said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.