GOP Congressman: ¿Do Away¿ With Appropriations

In a debate Monday in his upstate New York district, GOP Rep. John R. Kuhl said he wants to “essentially do away with the Appropriations Committee” to reduce wasteful spending.

The House Appropriations Committee is “where all the earmarks and seniority comes into play,” Kuhl said during the debate with his Democratic challenger, Eric Massa. Instead, he said, every congressional district “ought to get the same amount of money” in earmarks.

Kuhl’s campaign spokeswoman, Meghan Tisinger, told Politico the earmarking system is “extremely flawed,” and said, “If you gave everyone an equitable share of federal funds, you really wouldn’t need an Appropriations Committee.”

Kirstin Brost, spokeswoman for Democrats on the Appropriations Committee, tells Politico that Kuhl “doesn’t seem to understand the basic functions and responsibilities of Congress.”

Brost said the Appropriations Committee handles “the $1 trillion discretionary budget covering every Cabinet agency,” and that “earmarks represent less than one percent of this budget.”

David Williams, vice president of policy at the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, also criticized Kuhl’s proposal.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “The problem isn’t that the Appropriations Committee exists. The problem is the individual members of the committee.”

“When you want to spend federal tax dollars, it should be awarded on a competitive grant basis, and on a formula basis,” he said. “You’re not going to have an even distribution for each district; you’re going to have a fair distribution. ... A district in Montana may not have the same needs as a district in New York City.”

Kuhl is running for his third term in Congress. Massa also ran against Kuhl in 2006, losing by about 6,000 votes.

Debate video is available here.