A Defining Moment For Republicans

The opening on the House Appropriations Committee gives the Republicans a defining moment for their brand in the 110th Congress. Will they appoint a crusading anti-pork activist who can shine4 sunlight on the appropriations process, or will they assign the seat to someone more likely to go along with the status quo? Pressure has increased for the GOP’s House leadership to support the crusader, Jeff Flake of Arizona (via Memeorandum):

House Republicans this month will face a defining moment when they fill an opening on the Appropriations Committee: Either appoint an anti-earmark lawmaker or risk further alienating conservatives at the grassroots level.
The intensifying effort to persuade Republican leaders to select Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to fill ex-Rep. Roger Wicker’s (R-Miss.) Appropriations seat grew stronger Monday as FreedomWorks endorsed the maverick lawmaker.
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), now FreedomWorks president, said in a release, “Appointing Jeff Flake would make a major statement to the American people that the Republican Party is about the big ideas, such as ending wasteful earmarks and bringing transparency to the Appropriations Committee.” Armey added that the appointment is “a test” for the Republican Party, suggesting the GOP will not be back in the congressional majority unless it takes bold steps such as tapping Flake.
After sweeping GOP losses in the 2006 election, many Republicans on and off Capitol Hill faulted the rapid growth of earmarks as a major part of the party’s problem. President Bush last year pressed Congress to significantly curtail earmark use.

Yesterday, I mentioned the website Make It Flake and asked CapQ readers to call the party leadership to press for Flake’s appointment. His competition is rumored to mainly be Tom Cole, chair of the NRCC. I’ve had Rep. Cole on my show a few times, and he would make a fine choice, too — under normal circumstances. These are not normal circumstances, however.
Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 on the promise to clean up government and to reduce spending and influence. For a while, the GOP took that seriously. However, none of us can deny that the Republicans in Congress made a mess of that mission over the previous six years when they had a Republican in the White House that didn’t use his veto power to discipline his own party. They went hog-wild, pun intended, and turned pork-barrel spending from a hobby to an industry.
The GOP lost control of Congress as a result of that failure. Now, they need to make bold moves to assure voters that they learned their lesson. While Tom Cole is a fine Representative and part of the solution for the GOP, the opportunity to appoint a crusader cannot be missed. It will make a huge statement about the direction of the party — and a step in forcing discipline on a Congress that clearly resists it under Democratic leadership as well.
It’s a defining moment, and a brilliant opportunity. Let’s hope that the House Republicans take advantage of it.