Rep. Lewis passed over for powerful chairmanship

Republicans passed over  Rep. Jerry Lewis in favor of a veteran Kentucky lawmaker Wednesday to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

The party’s steering committee rejected Lewis’s request to waive term limits that bar him from reclaiming the post he held when Republicans last held the majority.

The decision deprives Lewis of a position that would have given him control over the federal government’s purse strings and a heightened ability to direct millions of dollars to his home district, which includes some of the Pass area.

See also: CREW’s Most Corrupt: Rep. Jerry Lewis

“I sincerely appreciate the steering committee’s careful deliberation throughout this process,’’ Lewis, R-Redlands, said following the vote. The vote tally was not disclosed.

The position went to Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, the third ranking Republican on the committee and who was just re-elected to his 16th term in the House.

Lewis and Rogers are both well known for steering federal dollars to their districts. Rogers’ earmark requests for the last fiscal year totaled $98 million, almost exactly the amount requested by Lewis.

Both had pledged to abide by a ban on earmarks next year as part of an effort to bring down federal spending.

“I look forward to working with Chairman Rogers … to fulfill our pledge to cut spending, stop harmful government interference in our businesses, improve our economy and create jobs and get our nation onto a sustainable and responsible fiscal path,’’ Lewis said.

The steering committee’s decision must still be approved by the full Republican caucus, which ordinarily rubber stamps the panel’s recommendations.

Entering his 17th term, Lewis will remain a senior member of the appropriation committee, but without the chairman’s post, it not clear what his leadership role will be in the new Republican majority.

Lewis, a native of San Bernardino, chaired the committee from 2005 to 2007 and served as its most senior Republican member for four years after Democrats regained the majority.

In his bid to win the chairmanship, Lewis had fought to obtain a waiver from a GOP six year term limit, arguing that his last four years in the minority should not count. But the rules worked against him.

Many freshmen representatives were wary of giving Lewis a waiver.

The competition to chair the committee was a proxy for a larger fight between newly elected Tea Party Republicans and old guard Republicans. The Tea Party favored Rep. John Kingston of Georgia, the No. 2 Republican on the committee.

Lewis received the endorsement of a Sacramento based Tea Party group. Yet anti-earmark politicians viewed Lewis as an inappropriate spokesman for a party that campaigned on a pledge to curb government spending.

The Department of Justice just closed an investigation into allegations that he had requested earmarks for clients of a large donor.

Presumed chairman-elect Rogers also is  known for bringing home the bacon, dubbed by some critics as “the Prince of Pork.’’ His efforts to secure money for local road construction and security contracts have led some to call his district “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.’’

Lewis has described Republicans’ work on the committee in the past four years as bringing the nation back to “fiscal sanity.”

Lewis introduced legislation in November that would send unspent stimulus funds back to the Treasury for deficit reduction.

“At a time of $1.3 trillion deficits and historic levels of debt … our country can ill afford to throw away billions more on a stimulus program that does not work and the public abhors,” Lewis wrote in a letter to President Obama after the election.

Lewis was not the only Republican whose experience cost him the chance to chair an influential committee. The steering committee also passed over ranking Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas for Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee.


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