High-profile conservatives are questioning the decision by House Republicans to place Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), a veteran lawmaker with a history of earmarking, in charge of a key spending committee.
Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative activist, said Rogers's election as the next Appropriations Committee chairman (along with Michigan GOP Rep. Fred Upton's selection as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee) "should cause all conservatives and Tea Partiers to doubt how serious the Republican leadership is about cleaning up the culture of waste, seniority and corruption in Congress."
"Grassroots conservatives are unhappy with the status quo in Washington, and Speaker-designate Boehner needs to balance this slap in the face with something to show conservatives that he is truly committed to reversing the size of government," Viguerie wrote in a blog post Thursday.
Viguerie joins several other conservatives in questioning Rogers's election.
"I don’t want to second-guess Boehner, and he’s not the one who makes all of these decisions," said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) earlier this week. "I like the fact they put [Rep.] Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on appropriations. Hal Rogers may be sorry for the day he became chairman with Jeff on that committee."
Boehner, the Republicans' Speaker-elect, has sought to deflect criticism of the new appropriations committee by naming Flake and several other reform-minded freshmen GOP lawmakers to the spending committee.
Republicans are under pressure from conservative activists, many of whom are aligned with the Tea Party movement, to show signs of reining in spending and waste. As part of their efforts to demonstrate responsiveness, House and Senate Republicans adopted a voluntary moratorium on the practice of earmarking, which has traditionally been the province of appropriators in both chambers.
Democrats have also joined in piling on Rogers, sending out releases highlighting different outlets' coverage of the Kentucky lawmaker and his nickname as the "Prince of Pork."
Conservatives had pushed for Rep. Jack Kingston's (R-Ga.) election over Rogers in the race for the appropriations chairmanship.
"If you believe the GOP must change their ways, you must then fight against Hal Rogers’s appointment and support Jack Kingston instead," wrote Erick Erickson, of the conservative blog RedState, on Wednesday. "This fight is too important. We must rebuke House Republican leaders and compel them to do the right thing."
Also sounding off was Nancy Pfotenhauer, a former senior adviser to Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign.
"I think it was a real misstep and cause for great concern. And I think the public's not going to put up with it," she said of Rogers's election on CNN on Wednesday night.