By Erik Wasson - 12/06/10 07:22 PM EST
A day before the House Republican Steering Committee is set to vote on who will be the next chairman of the House Appropriations committee, House Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday announced he is supporting deficit hawk Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to join the panel.
“I support Congressman Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in his effort to be appointed to serve on the Appropriations Committee, and I join with incoming Majority Leader Cantor in expressing hope that other reform-minded Members of Congress will follow Jeff’s example in seeking appointment to the committee,” Boehner said in a statement.
The move by Boehner could be taken as a sign that House leadership on Tuesday will back one of the more established candidates for chairmen — Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) or Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) — rather than the more outside candidate Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who is favored by Tea Party supporters. While all three have sought earmarks in the past, Kingston has sought the smallest amount of earmarked spending. Putting Flake on the panel could be a balancing move to having Lewis or Rogers as chairman.
The Lewis campaign for the gavel got another boost late Friday when the Justice Department revealed it was no longer investigating Lewis for allegedly using his past position as Appropriations chairman to secure funding for his friend, former congressman Bill Lowery.
“The DOJ response confirms what I’ve known from day one — that the facts and the truth of this matter will ultimately prevail. I look forward continuing to focus all my efforts on cutting government spending and getting our nation onto a responsible and sustainable fiscal path,” Lewis said in a statement.
The news outraged the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
"Yet again, the Department of Justice has chickened out, and allowed a corrupt politician to get away with deplorable conduct. Rep. Lewis blatantly sold his office and used his powerful perch on the Appropriations Committee to steer millions in earmarks to some of his biggest campaign donors,” Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement.