In a letter to his GOP colleagues dated November 19, the Georgia Republican opened his bid by stating, "I am writing to announce my decision to run for Chairman of the Appropriations Committee and to ask for your support. I believe I could be helpful in this position for a number of reasons."
Identifying himself as "a committed conservative with a long track record to prove it," Kingston cites his lifetime rating of 96 percent with American Conservative Union along with "perfect ratings" from FreedomWorks, the group led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and Eagle Forum, the pro-family group founded several decades ago by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly.
"As Chairman of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee when Republican spending was at its worst," he goes on to say, "I cut the budget by 1 percent (not a decrease of the increase)" while introducing a number of reforms, including "privatizing the power plant, reining in the runaway spending at the Capitol Visitors Center, and stopping the explosion in the Capitol Police force."
But it is on the issue of earmarks where he makes his strongest case.
"In 2007, I introduced the first major earmark reform bill with [Virginia GOP Rep.] Frank Wolf and [Tennessee Rep.] Zach Wamp," a bill that gained 160 cosponsors including "most members of the Appropriations Committees" as well as the most liberal and most conservative members of the House Republican Conference. "This bill called for a moratorium on earmarks coupled with bipartisan hearings to define and reform them." [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Republicans]
Indeed, it is the issue of earmarks that seems, for the moment, to be driving the train. Both of Kingston's competitors for the job, California's Jerry Lewis and Kentucky's Hal Rogers, are believed to be more "earmark friendly," though both—especially Rogers—have taken great pains to explain to their colleagues that they are with the program.
Lewis' campaign for chairman, like that of Texas Republican Joe Barton's bid to take over the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee, have run afoul of a GOP rule that limits the number of years any one member can have the top job on the committee to six—though there are those, including three influential former chairmen, who say the rule was never meant to apply to time spent as the ranking member.
Kingston's bid, which has real appeal to younger members of Congress and incoming freshmen who are spending hawks as well as tax cutters, ups the ante considerably where all are concerned. Correctly reading the results of the last election as a referendum on out-of-control government spending, members are trying to out-do one another in their commitment to trimming the budget, at least in the easier areas. Obviously, with the Democrats in control of the Senate and Barack Obama in the White House, there are going to be a considerable number of compromises, but it is likely true that the House, more often than not, is going to get a lot of what it wants.