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Murkowski Loss Underscores Trend: Appropriators Are Biting the Dust

4 years ago
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Now that Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has conceded, she has become the latest victim of a growing trend: Appropriations Committee members who have lost this year.

Once thought of as a powerful committee for members wanting to "bring home the bacon," in today's political environment sitting on an appropriations panel seems to be an albatross.

"Earmarking is a corrupt practice, plain and simple," says Andy Roth, a vice president at the conservative Club for Growth. "Voters understand that, but insecure politicians do not. And that's why the old adage that pork buys you votes doesn't work. It costs you votes."

Earlier this year, Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who also sits on the committee, lost her primary challenge to Gov. Rick Perry. Perry's strategy was to run against Washington spending -- and it worked.

It's also worth noting that U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, who was ousted at a Utah GOP state convention earlier this year, also sat on the panel.

Other committee members are leaving the Senate on their own. New Hampshire's Judd Gregg is retiring, as is Ohio Sen. George Voinovich. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback recently won his state's GOP gubernatorial primary.

One incumbent Republican who easily survived a tough primary challenge this year was John McCain. It should not escape our attention that McCain attacked his opponent, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth -- who once sat on the House Ways and Means Committee -- for his earmarks.

From that, we can see that this phenomenon is not exclusive to the upper chamber. Some Republican appropriators in the House who have tried to move on to other seats this year have also fared poorly.

Rep. Zach Wamp, the only Tennessean on the House Appropriations Committee, lost his gubernatorial primary earlier this month. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, who spent 13 years on the committee, lost his primary for U.S. Senate earlier this month to fellow Kansas Rep. Jerry Moran. And Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk, also a member of the committee, is facing a tough slog in his Senate general election this November.

Democrats sitting on the Senate Appropriations Committee have also faced problems. For example, Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter (formerly a Republican) lost his primary challenge earlier this year; North Dakota's Byron Dorgan decided not to seek re-election; and Washington state's Patty Murray is in a tough re-election race.

And in the House, the trend has held true for Democrats. Seven-term Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan lost her primary last month. David Obey of Wisconsin, who has served in the House since 1969, decided to retire earlier this year amid a tough general election challenge. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia was crushed by a primary challenger back in May. And Arkansas' Marion Berry announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.

Clearly, appropriators are on the outs, and holding a once-coveted seat on the committee is now a huge minus.

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9 Comments

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aylawoman

Given the incessant, irritating TV commercials she's constantly running, one might wonder if Patty Murray (D-WA) didn't appropriate more than a few $$ for her own re-election campaign... And she's *still* not winning!!

September 02 2010 at 12:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dhssresearcher

Sorry, the fringe may win the primaries, but in the general they'll be out in right field and miss the drives up the center.

September 01 2010 at 9:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tnickerson08

Murkowski was another moderate Republican; she spent 20 times the money that Miller did. She voted with democrats more than any other Republican (other than olympia snowe and susan collins). Republicans want REAL REPUBLICANS.

September 01 2010 at 7:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Byron

Bout time, but Thane is right. Any Congressman Senator can hold up unrelated legislation to get an earmark. Now if the voters could only remember history that goes back more than couple of weeks, oh, what they could accomplish.

September 01 2010 at 2:34 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
knezrad

What is odd about commentary like this is that it is overlooking the fact that membership on the appropriations committees goes to longer term incumbents, who naturally are feeling the pressures of time in office and the anti-incumbency mood caused by the economic situation and the poisonous climate in the press and from "know-nothing" slash-and-burn "wholesale" TV ad campaigns which confuse their relentless ad hominem attacks with effective campaigning tactics, forgetting their putative template, former Pres. Reagan, won not with his savage assaults of 1976 but his "nice" campaign in 1980.[Although, if they are the only tactics being used they are de facto effective even if largely counterproductive :)] as well as these members often being people who are at a period when they want to move on in different directions politically and try for other seats. It is confusing the situation as a causative factor rather than as a subsequent result. I can assure you in OH the Dems are relieved to not face Sen. Voinovich again facing the pasting he used to give us. And Mr. Toomey in PA is relieved to not have to fight Mr. Specter again this time across the aisle, although hopefully [being a Dem as I am -grin!] former Admiral Sestak will make him unhappy come the general election nonetheless. The only real difference I can see this election is that immense amounts of money are being spent early on by businesses with ties to legislation their interests are directly concerned with throughreal or semi-bogus political action committees securely under the thumb of their candidates or the major parties' arms for each chamber. Cordially yours, Daniel I. Radakovich former US Senate candidate-OH 2000 Dem primary

September 01 2010 at 1:54 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
alecat62

My my, the American people have awoken! Thank goodness. The belief that "money from Washington is free" has finally been thoroughly discredited. Here are the facts everyone, we need more makers, less takers. Here's a statement EVERY PERSON running for higher office should pledge to uphold, "If it is bad for America, it cannot be good for (insert: state, city, special interest group etc.). These thieves in Congress have been buying off the American public with borrowed (or stolen) money for years. This caper is finally over!

September 01 2010 at 1:44 PM Report abuse +17 rate up rate down Reply
Thane Eichenauer

I think this is a misdiagnosis. Ending up on the Appropriation panel is an indication that you are disconnected from the voters. Ron Paul earmarks and isn't ashamed of it and gets re-elected.

September 01 2010 at 1:41 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
trb2244

Thank you, Mr. Lewis! Good news! The voters are paying attention.

September 01 2010 at 12:16 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
ettu

Three things that would right our government quickly, are: 1.Individual taxpayer funding of campaigns, eliminating all special interests and limiting funds that would make politicians more concerned about using their funds to promote their own qualifications, rather than spend on constant attacks on their opponent. 2. One issue per bill...no riders. This will bring ALL pork spending into the light of day. 3. Bring public officeholders pay, pensions, and healthcare benefits into line with the private sector. Who gets 100% pension after working for only 4 or 6 years? Who gets guaranteed lifetime health benefits when they leave their place of employment? Who writes the laws that allow these things, and includes wording that insulates the officeholders against termination for wrongdoing, as would take place in the private sector in a NY minute? There is much to be done to correct what we, the voters, have allowed to happen. We will be making a good start in the 2010 elections, and again in 2012, and 2014, which will include ousting the newcomers if they prove themselves fickle.

September 01 2010 at 11:17 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

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