A breakdown of the candidates for the open House Appropriations seat

By Jackie Kucinich

The 27-member House Republican Steering Committee will soon select a replacement for ex-Rep. and now Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand FAA nominee advances to full Senate vote Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown MORE (R-Miss.) on the House Appropriations Committee.

But this is no ordinary decision; the chairman of the House campaign committee is running against two politically vulnerable members, and the anti-earmark community and conservative blogs are rallying behind Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake urges Republicans to condemn 'vile and offensive' Trump tweets Flake responds to Trump, Jimmy Carter barbs: 'We need to stop trying to disqualify each other' Jeff Flake responds to Trump's 'greener pastures' dig on former GOP lawmakers MORE (R-Ariz.).

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Here is a rundown of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the candidates.

Jo Bonner (R-Ala.)
Elected: 2002

Current committees: Agriculture, Budget, Science and Technology, Standards and Official Conduct.

In his favor: The Appropriations seat left vacant by Wicker is a Southern seat, which has proven to be a key factor in previous Steering Committee decisions. Some have called Bonner a favorite.

He has endorsed a plan introduced by Republican appropriators Reps. Frank WolfFrank Rudolph WolfDOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling Vulnerable Republican keeps focus as Democrats highlight Trump Bolton could be the first national security chief to prioritize religious freedom MORE (Va.), Jack Kingston (Ga.) and Zach Wamp (Tenn.) that would establish an earmark moratorium as a bipartisan, bicameral panel reviews earmark use.
Strikes against him: His appointment would be seen as a status quo move by Republican leadership.

He has a safe district and it could be argued that  he could wait for one of the seven slots that are expected to be open next year. Additionally, Rep. Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtHouse advances B agriculture bill Dems advance bill defying Trump State Department cuts Maryland raises legal tobacco purchasing age to 21 MORE (R-Ala.) already sits on the spending panel.
 
Henry Brown Jr. (R-S.C.)

Elected: 2000

Current committees: Natural Resources, Transportation and Infrastructure, Veterans’ Affairs

In his favor: Brown contends that his experience as the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in South Carolina has prepared him for a seat on the Appropriations panel, since the state post has similar jurisdiction.

He has been a loyal supporter of leadership and has a campaign war chest of nearly $1.1 million to spend on regaining the Republican majority. He also has seniority on his side.

Strikes against him: Brown’s safe seat could count against him in a race where two candidates are looking at tough reelection bids. Brown has been previously passed over and is viewed by some colleagues as a backbencher who puts in his name for any and all committee vacancies.

Rep. Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves Wilson75 years after D-Day: Service over self Valerie Plame to run for Congress in New Mexico Pollster says younger lawmakers more likely to respond to State of the Union on social media MORE’s (R-S.C.) decision to drop out of the race for the open seat could put him ahead of his colleague. In an unusual move, Wilson is not backing his home-state colleague and has endorsed Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).
 
Tom Cole (R-Okla.)
Elected: 2002

committees: National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, Armed Services, Natural Resources

In his favor: Cole has close relationships with several members of the Steering Committee. He has indicated that if he is chosen he will use the post to fundraise for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

His close relationship with House Minority Whip Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Top Democrat demands answers on election equipment vulnerabilities Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems MORE (R-Mo.) could also help Cole, given that Blunt has two votes on the committee. Cole publicly backed Blunt in Blunt’s failed bid to become majority leader in 2006.

Strikes against him: Low fundraising numbers, persistent retirements and spotty recruitment at the NRCC have damaged Cole’s image. A recent discovery of financial irregularities also could count against the Oklahoma Republican. House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAmash's critics miss the fact that partisanship is the enemy of compromise A cautionary tale for Justin Amash from someone who knows Border funding bill highlights the problem of 'the Senate keyhole' MORE (R-Ohio), who has a total of five votes on the committee, last year sought major staffing changes at the NRCC.

Lawmakers have grumbled privately that the Appropriations seat would be better used to help retain a vulnerable member.

Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
Elected: 2000

Current committees: Foreign Affairs, Natural Resources

In his favor:  The debate over the use of earmarks has caused a swell of support for Flake among the conservative community outside the Capitol.

House leaders and Steering Committee members have received hundreds of phones calls and e-mails advocating the Arizona anti-earmark advocate’s appointment. Like Brown, Flake is in his fourth term and has signed onto the Wolf-Kingston-Wamp resolution.

 Strikes against him: Flake’s earmark war has alienated appropriators and leadership alike. He constantly challenges Republican and Democratic projects, prompting members to question whether he would be more trouble then help on the committee. He has been penalized in the past for his willingness to go after members of his own party, losing a position on the Judiciary Committee after the Democratic takeover of the House.
 
Michael Turner (R-Ohio)
Elected: 2002

Current committees: Armed Services, Oversight and Resources, Veterans’ Affairs

In his favor: A loyal conservative, Turner wrote recently in an op-ed in The Hill that he promoted an earmarking system that originated in Dayton, Ohio. The system ranked the importance of earmarks in different categories and allows the community to vet the projects.

Turner is from Ohio, as is Minority Leader John Boehner.

Strikes against him: He is in a safe Republican seat with two Ohio members of the committee retiring at the end of the year; at least one of the vacancies is expected to go to someone in the Ohio delegation, so Turner may have to wait. A Turner pick now could look like a home-state pick from BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAmash's critics miss the fact that partisanship is the enemy of compromise A cautionary tale for Justin Amash from someone who knows Border funding bill highlights the problem of 'the Senate keyhole' MORE.

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.)
Elected: 2004

Current committees: Homeland Security, Transportation and Infrastructure

In his favor: Like Bonner, Reichert is a co-sponsor of the Wolf-Kingston-Wamp reform resolution. He argues that the Pacific Northwest also has no Republican representation on the committee. His district, part of which lies right outside of Seattle, has become a regular target for Democrats.

It is also situated near that of Democratic appropriator Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who has been able to deliver projects to his Northwestern district. Reichert argues that as the most vulnerable candidate for the committee, his immediate appointment makes the most sense.

 Strikes against him: As a vulnerable lawmaker, some of his opponents have argued that he will not be able to take tough votes for the party. He has the least seniority of the seven candidates and is the most moderate.
 
Marilyn Musgrave  (R-Colo.)
Elected: 2002

Current committees: Agriculture, Small Business

In her favor: Musgrave faces another tough reelection bid in November. In a Feb. 11 letter to the Steering Committee, Musgrave pointed out that that there is little Western representation on Appropriations and that a Colorado Republican has not sat on the committee since the 95th Congress.

She is also the only woman seeking the position. Currently only two other GOP women serve on the committee: Reps. Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.) and Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerLobbying world House approves bill increasing federal worker pay House approves 3 billion spending package MORE (Texas). She is also a co-sponsor of Wolf-Kingston-Wamp.

Strikes against her: Given her vulnerability, Musgrave has not been able to fundraise as well as many of her opponents. She has been also known to go against leadership at times, most notably on her “no” vote on the 2003 Medicare drug benefit.