Tea Party-backed freshmen win plum committee assignments

Most of the 22 House Republican freshmen-to-be selected to sit on much coveted, A-list committees won their races with Tea Party backing.

The House Republican Steering Committee last week added the incoming members to the rosters of four powerful committees: Appropriations, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce and Financial Services.

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House Republicans believe they were swept into power Nov. 2 by a powerful anti-Washington wave of voter frustration over the amount of federal spending and a stagnant job market.

Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his fellow GOP leaders and representatives on the House Steering Committee ensured members of the largest GOP freshmen class in 70 years were given spots on influential panels.

Nearly half of the new GOP spots on the House Appropriations Committee were given to incoming members.

The Steering Committee tapped four Tea Party-backed representatives-elect to serve on the powerful spending panel.

GOP Rep.-elect Alan Nunnelee (Miss.) was one of nearly a dozen candidates officially endorsed by former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. GOP Reps.-elect Steve Womack (Ark.) and Kevin Yoder (Kan.) were both endorsed by Freedom Works — the interest group closely tied to the Tea Party movement. Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), elected in a special election in June 2010 and who won in the fall's regular election, will also serve on the spending panel and is an outspoken proponent for fiscal restraint.

Republicans pledged they would make significant cuts in spending over the next two years. The GOP Conference for the 112th Congress voted to ban earmark spending last month.

Democrats attacked the Republicans for selecting 15-term GOP Rep. Hal Rogers (Ky.) to head the Appropriations panel last week. Rogers, a longtime champion of earmark spending, recently changed his tune to support the ban on earmark spending.

But the Steering Committee attempted to negate that issue by appointing Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), an avid anti-earmark lawmaker who has made every attempt to strip such spending from appropriations bills. Fiscally conservative Republican soon-to-be-sophomore Reps. Steve Austria (Ohio) and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.) and centrist Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) were also selected to sit on the spending committee.

In a statement Friday, Rogers wrote: “Cutting spending, bringing down record deficits, and reining in out-of-control agencies is going to be a difficult task, but I believe the addition of these fine, talented members is a step in the right direction. Our nation needs serious leadership and I enthusiastically welcome these Members to the Appropriations Committee.”

Only two incoming GOP lawmakers were appointed to the Ways and Means Committee. Reps.-elect Rick Berg (R-N.D.), who defeated veteran Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy, and Diane Black (R-Tenn.) were selected to fill two of the 10 new GOP spots created on the tax-writing panel. Four of the new Ways and Means GOP lawmakers picked to sit on the panel were elected in 2008. Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), Chris Lee (R-N.Y.), Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) and Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) won spots on the committee. GOP Reps. Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Jim Gerlach (Pa.), Adrian Smith (Neb.) and Conference Policy Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) were also selected to serve on the Ways and Means Committee.

Just less than half of the new GOP spots on the Energy and Commerce Committee will go to incoming lawmakers.

GOP Reps.-elect Cory Gardner (Colo.), Morgan Griffith (Va.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), David McKinley (W.Va.), Mike Pompeo (Kan.) and Charlie Bass (N.H.) were chosen to sit on the panel that will face a heavy workload in the next Congress as incoming Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) attempts to revamp the new healthcare law and conduct oversight of the EPA.

Bass served in the House from 1995-2007. He won back the seat he held in November.

GOP lawmakers Brian Bilbray (Calif.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Brett Guthrie (Ky.), Gregg Harper (Miss.), Conference Vice-Chairwoman  Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (Wash.), Pete Olson (Texas) and GOP Leadership Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.) were also added to the Energy panel.

The House Financial Services Committee, led by incoming Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), will get the largest portion of the incoming freshmen.

Ten of the 12 new GOP spots on the committee went to incoming GOP freshmen: Quico Canseco (Texas), Bob Dold (Ill.), Sean Duffy (Wis.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Nan Hayworth (N.Y.), Bill Huizenga (Mich.), Robert Hurt (Va.), Steve Stivers (Ohio), Steve Pearce (N.M.) and Michael Fitzpatrick (Pa.) were selected to sit on the panel with jurisdiction over federal monetary policy and the banking system. Pearce and Fitzpatrick served in the House in prior years.

The GOP Steering Committee will meet this week to decide the committee assignments for the rest of the House panels. They have yet to determine the ratio of Republicans to Democrats on the committees.