Newly re-elected U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake is trying to position himself on a key House committee to review, and presumably whack, earmark legislation when the 111th Congress opens next year.
Flake, R-Ariz., has requested a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which has broad responsibility over the federal budget. Republicans will need to fill about six seats on the panel.
Flake is one of the rare members of Congress who does not seek earmarks himself and has championed the elimination of the practice altogether years before it became one of the key elements of Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign this year.
In a letter to House Republican leader Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, Flake touted his credentials as an opponent to earmarks, which are federally funded pet projects or programs that are nearly always in the particular states and districts of the senators and representatives who requested the funding.
"As soon as a member of the Appropriations committee accepts an earmark from the committee, he or she essentially forfeits the opportunity to challenge other earmarks," Flake states in the letter, which was dated Nov. 20. "Consequently tens of thousands of earmarks are approved by the Appropriations committee annually with minimal, if any, scrutiny. Wouldn't it make sense to have at least one member on the Committee who doesn't seek earmarks?"
Neither Boehner nor Flake could be reached for comment Wednesday, but Flake has attracted at least some national support for his selection to the committee.
An editorial Tuesday in The Examiner newspaper of Baltimore stated: "Flake has been a tireless opponent of earmarks and has often succeeded in forcing votes by the House on individual measures despite strong opposition among both his Republican colleagues and Democrats who control the chamber."
In a related matter, Flake issued a special Thanksgiving edition of his weekly press releases spotlighting what he calls "Egregious Earmarks of the Week."
The format is pretty simple: a short description of a proposed federal project (such as a teapot museum), the cost to taxpayers and a pun belittling the expenditure.
The holiday week's egregious earmarks: $173,000 for the National Wild Turkey Federation, $118,000 for cranberry research in Massachusetts, and $1.1 million for potato research in Oregon, Washington, Maine and Idaho.
"Ending earmarks like these would be just gravy," Flake stated in the press release.