Craig Congratulations to 3rd District Rep. John Salazar. Last week he was named to the influential House Appropriations Committee. That's no small honor for a congressman just entering his third term in office.
The adjective "influential" hardly does justice to the Appropriations Committee. There are some who say the chairman of the committee - currently Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin - is as powerful as the president because funding for virtually everything the federal government does must first be approved by the Appropriations Committee.
We have been very critical of Congressman Salazar recently, for a variety of reasons. Among the foremost issues is Salazar's avowed support for using budget earmarks to get federal funding for projects in his district. With his appointment to Appropriations, Salazar likely will have even more opportunity to secure pork-barrel spending for this district. At least one member of the committee, John Murtha, of Pennsylvania, has made an art form of larding up spending bills with money for his district. That may be great for his district but not the country as a whole.
We hope Rep. Salazar will view things from a more national perspective when he joins Appropriations. In light of the current economic crisis and the large amounts of money being spent on bailouts, the country cannot afford to add billions more in spending for pet projects of individual members of Congress. And, yes, Republicans have been just as guilty of this practice as Democrats.
Although there are ways to add earmarks after an appropriations bill has gone through the Appropriations Committee, the committee is a key gatekeeper for all types of spending, including earmarks.
We hope that in his new position, Rep. Salazar will carefully examine all budget requests - whether for his district or any other congressional district - and consider how they will affect the overall budget and the economy of this nation.