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When Does 'Appropriator' Become a Dirty Word? Perhaps in Georgia's GOP Primary

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Kingston, an Appropriations subcommittee chairman, could be vulnerable to an attack from his right in the Georgia Senate primary.

Candidates in the Georgia Republican Senate primary are jostling for the furthest right starting block in what’s likely to be a crowded race. Already the question is: Can a member of the Appropriations Committee, through which all past spending decisions have traveled, prevail in the new GOP era of fiscal restraint?

Rep. Jack Kingston is the case in point. He’s the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and he’s expected to enter the Senate primary against Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey. Rep. Tom Price is touted as a potential candidate as well.

The differences among the lawmakers are subtle, so Kingston could be vulnerable to attack from his right flank in a primary that may hinge on who is more fiscally conservative. It’s becoming apparent that the knives will be out should the 1st District representative announce his candidacy. Broun said that what distinguishes him from the field is his fealty to constitutionally limited government.

“I think Americans want somebody who is going to reduce the spending,” Broun said in an interview. “So anyone who has voted for bigger government, bigger spending, is going to have troubles in a primary race if they’re running against someone who has the record that I have.”

The Appropriations Committee has fallen in stature in the years since Republican leaders banned earmarks, the pet projects that members sought for their districts. Now the panel is focused more on cutting spending than on increasing it. And appropriators have become a reluctant bulwark against some of their more aggressive GOP colleagues’ efforts to cut discretionary spending.

Kingston’s Record

Before the mood of the institution turned on the tea party dime, before earmarks became anathema, longtime appropriators had the motive and opportunity to build up a record of earmarks.

Though he is known for his early commitment to reducing earmarks, Kingston was no exception. He amassed nearly $50 million in solo earmark requests from 2008 to 2010, according to records kept by Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Appropriators also are known for accepting compromise spending bills in committee solidarity with their Democratic counterparts. Now compromise has become a dirty word among many conservatives.

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