House Republican leaders agreed Wednesday night to tap Alabama Rep. Jo Bonner to fill a vacant post on the powerful Appropriations Committee, according to numerous GOP sources briefed on the decision.
The leaders are scheduled to gather with other members of the Republican Steering Committee in the Capitol suite of Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) at 3:30 Thursday afternoon to make the official selection.
If the committee follows through with leadership’s recommendation, as is typical, Bonner would be something of safe selection from the field that includes an anti-earmark crusader – Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake – two potentially vulnerable lawmakers – Colorado Rep. Marilyn Musgrave and Washington Rep. Dave Reichert – and a member of the leadership – Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Many members and aides believed Boehner wanted the selection to symbolize his commitment to overhauling the process for doling out lawmaker-requested projects. As a result, many believed he would favor a Republican who does not typically request those earmarks. But Flake is viewed by many as disloyal for his outspoken defiance of party leaders over the years. None of the others completely fit that mold.
The decision also represents a stern rebuke of Cole by his fellow leaders. Members, aides and outside lobbyists grumbled that the NRCC chairman was casting the wrong image by running aggressively for the seat with the promise that it would help him raise more money for the campaign committee, an implicit quid pro quo that echoed past Republican scandals. As a member of the leadership, Cole was present when his fellow leaders denied him the seat, according sources familiar with the meeting.
Bonner would become the third member of the Alabama delegation to assume a post on the spending panel, joining Republican Robert Aderholt and Democrat Bud Cramer. He was a favorite of the ranking Republican on the committee, California Rep. Jerry Lewis, and made a commitment to limit federal spending during his campaign for the seat.