GOP dilemma on Appropriations seat grows deeper with Musgrave

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave’s (R-Colo.) entrance into the contentious battle for the open Appropriations Committee seat pits the House campaign committee chairman against two of his most vulnerable members.

Musgrave’s decision to jump into the race, first reported by TheHill.com on Tuesday, has deepened the dilemma facing House Republican leaders — who will attract criticism with any decision they make.

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Musgrave and Rep. Dave ReichertDavid (Dave) George ReichertLymphedema Treatment Act would provide a commonsense solution to a fixable problem Yoder, Messer land on K Street Ex-GOP lawmaker from Washington joins lobbying firm MORE (R-Wash.), who is also seeking the seat, are members of the Regaining Our Majority Program (ROMP), a National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) fundraising effort that is geared toward retaining members who sit in targeted districts.

There are currently 17 members who benefit from ROMP’s fundraising efforts.

NRCC Chairman Tom Cole’s (Okla.) decision to run for the open seat has ruffled feathers inside and outside the Capitol. Some Republicans believe that the coveted seat should go to a vulnerable member of the conference, while other GOP officials and groups are pushing for earmark foe Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeVulnerable senators hold the key to Trump's fate Trump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong How to survive an impeachment MORE (R-Ariz.).

Cole’s office declined to comment specifically on the race Tuesday.

“Congressman Cole isn’t making any specific comments on the race itself, but he does regard Rep. Musgrave as a close friend and classmate. He believes she has been an integral part of the conference and he will continue to help her any way he can in the future,” Cole spokeswoman Liz Eddy said.

During an interview with The Hill last week, Cole declined to answer questions about his bid for the spending panel.

“I don’t have anything to say about it,” Cole said.

The NRCC spent $1.8 million to defend Musgrave and $2.3 million defending Reichert last cycle. Both members narrowly won reelection and are once again targets for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

Musgrave defeated Democrat Angie Paccione 46 to 43 percent. Reichert faces a rematch in 2008 against his 2006 challenger, Democrat Darcy Burner, whom he defeated 51 to 49 percent.

“Tom Cole is challenging his own vulnerable members using the same ‘pay to play’ tactics that were a hallmark of the old corrupt GOP majority,” said DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell. “If he gets the appropriations seat, it is further evidence that the legacies of Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay still rule congressional Republicans. Just goes to show you that Republicans can change their leaders but can’t change their culture. ”

Flake, who has received the support of national conservative groups in his bid for the seat, dismissed the notion that the post will help members get reelected.

“This is a myth, that this will help reelect someone,” he said, pointing out the five House GOP members who sat on the Appropriations Committee and lost their 2006 reelection races.

In her statement Tuesday, Musgrave made no mention of the leverage the seat could provide: “As a native Coloradoan, I am committed to Western values, and it is important to note that there is not currently a Colorado member on the House Appropriations Committee.

Asked whether Cole’s bid could hurt her chances for the seat, Musgrave spokesman Joe Brettell said, “We think that he’d make an excellent member of the Appropriations Committee.”

Mike Shields, a spokesman for Reichert, said, “[Reichert] is the person who will help the conference the most … Dave is for more transparency and accountability.”

In addition to Reichert, Cole, Flake and Musgrave, GOP Reps. Henry Brown Jr. (S.C.), Jo Bonner (Ala.) and Michael Turner (Ohio) declared their intentions to run earlier this month.