The House Appropriations Committee--in some ways the most powerful committee in the entire body, a spot on which is lusted after by lawmakers from across the nation--is losing its equally plum territory just off the House floor, The New York Times' Carl Hulse reports. The indirect reason: construction of a bathroom. Hulse writes:
Republican officials say the office suite, which is just steps from the House floor for the convenience of the chairman and members - much closer than the official offices of other House leaders - will be turned into a ceremonial office for the incoming speaker, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio.As Hulse rightly points out, the Appropriations Committee is losing some of its luster with the waning viability of earmarks.
The switch, they said, was necessitated by the planned construction of a women's bathroom nearer the floor. Parliamentary staff in that space now will move across the hall into what is a ceremonial office used by Speaker Nancy Pelosi for press conferences, interviews and meetings. So Mr. Boehner will need other ceremonial space.
The Appropriations Committee is responsible for appropriating federal money, mostly to federal agencies and programs, during Congress's annual appropriations process, filling out the budget sketch with actual money. As part of that responsibility, earmarks fall under the purview of the committee, whose members serve as gatekeepers, deciding which earmarks make it into appropriations bills and which don't.
The power is immense. Any member who wants to earmark federal money for a bridge in his district, for instance, must ask the Appropriations Committee. Appropriators have, in the past, advocated against earmarks reform.
This year, the worm is turning. House Republicans last month agreed not to request any earmarks over the next two years, and, since they will control the Appropriations Committee as of Jan. 3, there seems to be a reasonable chance that the House won't produce any earmarks next year. (The Senate, on the other hand, failed to pass an earmarks moratorium; earmarks will probably come out of the upper chamber.)
Hence less power and leverage for members of the House Appropriations Committee in the next Congress. And hence the symmetry of uprooting appropriators and staff from their prime real estate, revealing, albeit indirectly, the prioritization of a bathroom.
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