Reporting from Washington — Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), under fire from deficit hawks for steering tens of millions of dollars to projects in his district, faced a new challenge Friday in his bid for the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) launched a campaign for the gavel, citing his efforts to rein in spending, including the practice of lawmakers earmarking funds for pet projects. Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) is also seeking the post.
Lewis chaired the panel before Democrats won control of the House in 2006 and is its top-ranking Republican. But his bid to become chairman again has drawn opposition from a number of conservative groups because of his years of earmark spending.
In a letter to soon-to-be House Speaker John A. Boehner (R- Ohio), the conservative leaders said that if Lewis became chairman, "It would be a signal to the millions of independents and members of the tea party movement who took a chance on Republicans in the election, that you have ignored their message of change, and that instead it will be business as usual in Washington."
Lewis is already facing challenges in trying to secure a waiver from a rule that limits members to six years as chairman or ranking member. Also, there may be some concern among his colleagues about Californians chairing too many panels in the next Congress. California Republicans could end up heading more House committees than lawmakers from any other state.
Lewis' office had no immediate comment on Kingston's entry into the race, but the veteran California congressman said in a recent letter to GOP colleagues that he is the "most tested and battle-ready" person to lead the committee and pledged to carry out "our commitment to the American people to deliver a smaller, more efficient and more fiscally responsible federal government."
Lewis joined nearly all of his fellow Republicans earlier this year in swearing off earmarks to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.
House Republicans are expected to decide on committee chairs for the next Congress within a few weeks.