The suddenly-unpopular Appropriations Committee

THE SUDDENLY-UNPOPULAR APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE…. For years, members of the House, from both parties, desperately wanted to be assigned to the Appropriations Committee. And why not? It was the panel that allowed members to steer funds to their districts, which tended to make them pretty popular back home.

But as the 112th Congress takes shape, it appears no one’s anxious to accept this once-plum committee assignment.

A band of conservative rebels has taken over the House, vowing to slash spending, cut the deficit and kill earmarks.

And of course they’d love a seat on the powerhouse Appropriations Committee so they can translate their campaign zeal into action, right?

Not really.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was asked to be an appropriator and said thanks, but no thanks. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a tea party favorite, turned down a shot at Appropriations, which controls all discretionary spending. So did conservatives like Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), an ambitious newcomer who will lead the influential Republican Study Committee.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who hopes to be the committee’s chairman, noted, “Anybody who’s a Republican right now, come June, is going to be accused of hating seniors, hating education, hating children, hating clean air and probably hating the military and farmers, too…. There’s going to be a lot of tough votes. So some people may want to shy away from the committee. I understand it.”

At Daily Kos, Susan Gardner added yesterday, “Yeah, be careful what you ask for. You get elected grandstanding about government overspending, you might actually have to … you know, put your name to specifics on where to cut government spending. And no one wants to run two years down the line on killing popular programs — and every program has some constituency that actually uses it, benefits from it, feels allegiance to it.”

Quite right. It wasn’t an accident that, throughout the campaign season, Republican candidates balked when asked to talk about what they intended to cut if given power. For all their bravado about how the “American people” just love cutting spending, and elected Republiacns to do just that, many GOP officials are well aware of the dirty little secret — spending cuts can not only undermine economic growth, they also tend to be pretty unpopular.

Kingston’s quote actually telegraphed where Republicans intend to go — the GOP is looking to cut funding for schools, seniors, clean air, farmers, and the military.

The 30-second ads for 2012 will practically write themselves. If I were a Republican lawmaker, beholden to an unhinged base, I’d probably want to avoid the Appropriations Committee, too.