The omnibus passed the House this week in an overwhelming fashion, 359-67. But only one of the 67 lawmakers who voted against it is a member of the Appropriations Committee: Jack Kingston, an old-school appropriator who has become increasingly more conservative.
As the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, Kingston is the third highest-ranking appropriator in the House. He was a big part of crafting the omnibus, particularly provisions heralded by conservatives for cutting money used to implement Obamacare. But apparently that wasn’t enough to appease the Georgia Republican. On Wednesday, he very quietly voted "no" without so much as a news release.
On Tuesday, while Kingston said he was undecided on the $1.1 trillion omnibus — which he said he was “still reading through” — he certainly sounded like a legislator who supported the measure.
“There are a lot of conservative victories in this bill,” he said in an off-the-floor interview. “And so I think people realize there are some things in here that were hard fought.”
Specifically, Kingston mentioned how much he liked the Labor-HHS provisions.
“On our section of the bill,” Kingston said, “we fought long and hard for conservative provisions, and we pulled in a lot on not just on Obamacare, but the Department of Labor. We did not fund the early start education program that the president wanted, a lot of their new initiatives we did not fund, so we feel there’s a lot of things from a conservative standpoint that are in that section of the bill which people can look through and consider a victory.”
Kingston, who for years voted for the spending bills that came out of the Appropriations Committee, has recently clamped down on his voting record. He’s in a crowded Republican primary for a Georgia Senate seat with Reps. Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, both of whom voted against the omnibus as well, and he is tasked with showing Georgia voters that he is every bit as conservative as two of the most conservative members in the House.
To wit, he voted against reopening the government in October, and he voted against the budget deal in December. He was one of only two appropriators to vote against the budget deal. (Andy Harris, R-Md., also voted against it, though he did vote for the omnibus.)
According to Kingston, the budget deal and the omnibus were “all, you know, one discussion.” So, perhaps, his “no” vote should not have been so surprising.
But Kingston helped write the bill.
“We started working on ours back in the winter of last year,” Kingston said on Tuesday. And Kingston’s Senate counterpart — Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee — thanked Kingston on the Senate floor this week for working out “a fair agreement.”
But ultimately, Kingston, apparently didn’t think the deal was fair enough. A request for comment from Kingston or his office was stalled, and then denied.
It could have been any number of things that lost Kingston's support. The sheer size of the $1.1 trillion bill. The fact that it, once again, barred horse meat inspections. (Kingston, as a lawmaker who has actually tasted horse meat, has fashioned himself as one of Congress's greatest horse meat inspection advocates, noting on Tuesday that while "horses are an emotional piece of property," horse owners "need a place to dispose of the horse when it's aged and its usefulness has worn out.") But whatever his Senate primary opponents' problem with the omnibus was, Kingston probably feels a similar way.