The Washington Post this morning has a piece about the power of the Congressional Appropriators, led on the House side by Jerry Lewis:
Twice last month, Lewis and his committee nearly derailed high-profile legislation, first forcing GOP leaders to pull their 2007 budget blueprint from House debate and then bringing consideration of a major lobbying and ethics bill to a halt Thursday. Only after House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) pleaded, saying that his reputation was at stake, did committee members allow the lobbying bill to proceed to a vote, now scheduled for tomorrow.That last quote is from the same Mike Simpson who insisted that pork projects are a Constitutional right.
Those actions are underscoring a political truism often uttered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): Congress has three political parties -- Republicans, Democrats and appropriators. Traditionally, the appropriations committees in both chambers of Congress have operated with bipartisan comity and an independent streak. GOP leaders tried to rein them in after the Republican takeover in 1994, but Lewis in recent weeks has emerged as a force, reasserting his panel's independence.
"We are getting more authoritative," said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), an Appropriations Committee member who behind closed doors spoke vociferously against the lobbying bill, which he thought unfairly singled out the panel. "We are standing up for our turf."