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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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