Calvert Picked for Vacant Approps Seat

Posted May 9, 2007 at 6:44pm

The House Republican Steering Committee voted Wednesday to seat Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) on the Appropriations Committee, filling the vacancy left by embattled Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.).

Calvert was passed over previously for the post in 2006 when local news reports questioned his role in steering earmarks to California real estate in which he has a financial interest.

“I am taking on the Appropriations Committee position temporarily in order to represent the state of California through the annual appropriations process,” Calvert said in a statement Wednesday. “I’m eager to get to work on the state’s behalf on this important committee.”

Doolittle’s leave from the committee is considered temporary until his separate federal probe is resolved. Doolittle and his wife, Julie, are both under investigation for their ties to incarcerated former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

While GOP leadership aides and members of the Steering panel voiced reservations last week over appointing Calvert, the eight-term lawmaker prevailed. According to sources familiar with the meeting, he appeared to have the overwhelming support of the committee. Calvert is himself a member of the Steering Committee. He attended the meeting Wednesday but recused himself for the secret-ballot vote.

The decision was welcomed by Democrats, who continue to attack the GOP for creating a “culture of corruption” in Washington, D.C. — a campaign theme used throughout 2006 that is credited in part with helping the party secure a House majority.

“Apparently, if you’re a Republican who is under investigation for shady land deals, your reward is a seat on the House Appropriations Committee,” said Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Isn’t there a single member of the Republican Conference not under investigation who would be better suited for the Appropriations seat than Ken Calvert?”

One GOP source said California regional interests played a weighted role in landing Calvert the post, as did objections to holding a Member accountable based on press reports. “We can’t start pulling Members from committees based on one newspaper story,” the source explained.

In May 2006, shortly after the initial news reports about Calvert and earmarks, the FBI pulled Calvert’s 2000-2005 financial disclosure records. Little is publicly known of the bureau’s interest in Calvert, or whether he is under a formal investigation. Following standard practice, the FBI has declined to comment and Calvert insists there was no wrongdoing, citing local editorials backing up that claim.

Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), who is under federal investigation, and others strongly supported Calvert because the 19-member state GOP delegation would only have one GOP lawmaker on Appropriations if a non-Californian filled the seat. Rules ranking member David Dreier (R-Calif.) and freshman Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also are on the Steering Committee.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has sought to enforce a tougher ethical standard in the 110th Congress, and he was instrumental in ensuring that Doolittle and Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), who also is under federal investigation, stepped down from their committee assignments after the FBI raided Doolittle’s Virginia home and Renzi’s Arizona family business.

In a statement, Boehner said that Calvert quelled the Steering Committee’s concerns. “Congressman Calvert answered every question asked of him by the Steering Committee,” Boehner said. “It was a candid and frank conversation, and the members of the committee were satisfied with his answers.”

The Steering Committee also voted Wednesday to seat Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) on Financial Services, and McCarthy on Natural Resources. Those seats were vacated when Renzi stepped down from all of his committee assignments in late April. Boehner already has appointed Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) to fill Renzi’s seat on the Intelligence Committee.

Additionally, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) was re-appointed to the House Armed Services Committee to fill Calvert’s seat on that panel, which he vacated because Appropriations is an exclusive committee.