House Appropriations Committee

House committee approves email privacy reform

If there is any good to come out of revelations about the NSA broad surveillance of Americans, it’s that there is a new push inside Congress to ensure that the Fourth Amendment is being protected.

Though the NSA is most infamous example of a government snooping of its citizens, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service claimed that they could read Americans’ emails, instant messages, and search their cloud data without a warrant. The FBI wanted even more authority than currently allowed to conduct surveillance.

But that may soon come to an end. Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved an amendment that would require agencies that receive funding through the annual Financial Services spending bill to obtain a warrant before accessing Americans’ email information.

Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), who offered the amendment in committee, called its adoption a step in the right direction.

“The IRS, SEC, and other government agencies have stated Americans don’t have an expectation of privacy with their email. I completely disagree,” said Yoder in a statement through his office. “By passing this amendment, the Appropriations Committee is taking a critical step towards ensuring all Americans are protected by the Fourth Amendment – their mail, documents on their desks at home, and now their private emails.”

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers on the Budget

Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Following the House’s passage of a six-month continuing resolution last week (my comments on the CR here), House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) chatted about fiscal policy with a couple of reporters on C-SPAN. The interview did nothing to change my 2010 opinion that the House leadership handing Rogers the chairman’s gavel was “about as inspiring as re-heated meatloaf.”

While Rogers is correct that domestic discretionary spending represents a relatively small share of total spending (approximately 12 percent) and that entitlement spending is the bigger problem, his comment that “we’ve just about reached the bottom of the barrel” on such spending is a stretch. Domestic discretionary spending has dropped, but after a sizeable increase during the 2000s. And arguably more important than the dollar amount this category represents are the activities being funded. For example, the federal government shouldn’t be spending a dime on the Department of Education, which is mostly discretionary spending.

Anderson Cooper exposes the King of Pork

Yesterday, I posted the list of committee chairman selected by the Republican Steering Committee for the next Congress, noting that Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), the incoming chair of House Appropriations Committee, has a reputation for wasting money.

In his “Keeping Them Honest” segment on Wednesday night, Anderson Cooper detailed some of the pork Rogers, the King of Pork, has brought home:

He got a quarter billion dollars in the last two years, including 52 million dollars for a National Center for Hometown Security. It’s located right there in Somerset, Kentucky, which is Congressman Rogers’ hometown. Population? Wait for it–11,000. The local airport’s also gotten earmarks over the years. $17 million even though the last commercial airline? They pulled out in February due to a lack of passengers. It’s right down the road, by the way, from the Hal Rogers Parkway.

Yes, this is who Republicans selected to be the head of the House Appropriations Committee, famously dubbed “the favor factory” by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Unacceptable.

Here is the video:

House Republicans name committee chairs

Republicans have been busy since their historic gains in the mid-term election. They’ve adopted new rules on transparency, setting a tentative schedule for 2011 and setting the list of chairmen for the new Congress:

On Tuesday, House leaders picked Harold Rogers of Kentucky, a member of the Appropriations Committee since 1983, to lead the panel, over Jerry Lewis of California, a former chairman, and Jack Kingston of Georgia. They also named Fred Upton of Michigan over Joe L. Barton of Texas to win back the chairmanship on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which handles health care.

John Boehner to back Jeff Flake’s bid for House Appropriation Committee

According to Daniel Foster over National Review Online, incoming-Speaker John Boehner is backing a bid to put Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on the House Appropriations Committee:

“I support Congressman Jeff Flake [R-AZ] in his effort to be appointed to serve on the Appropriations Committee, and I join with incoming Majority Leader Cantor in expressing hope that other reform-minded Members of Congress will follow Jeff’s example in seeking appointment to the committee.

“The Appropriations Committee will be the scene of much action in the next Congress as we work to implement the Pledge to America, which calls for cutting spending to pre-’stimulus’ levels, repealing the job-killing health care law, prohibiting all taxpayer funding of abortion, and bringing greater scrutiny to the broken spending process in Washington.  These priorities are among the priorities of the American people, and the Republicans currently serving on the Appropriations Committee are going to need all the additional help they can get in working to ensure the priorities of the people are met.”

Flake has been a thorn in the side of earmarkers in Congress for quite some time. Over the past few years, he has offered a series of amendments aimed at stripping pork projects out of spending bills. Flake often making the correlation between members who seek earmarks and corrpution; calling the House Appropriations Committee a “favor factory.”

GOP leadership elections taking shape

As the recovery from the mid-term election begins, Republicans in the House are beginning to jockey for position in leadership roles, with Rep. Eric Cantor seems to be the frontrunner for House Majority, the number two spot in that chamber:

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor wasted little time after crushing Republican wins Tuesday night before announcing he will seek a promotion in the 112th Congress.

In a letter to his Republican colleagues, Cantor says he will run for majority leader and pledges to take the House in a new direction. Cantor’s goal, he says, is to respond to an American electorate that voted against Democrats more than voting for Republicans.

“I have announced my intention to stand for election as Majority Leader because I am results oriented and I want to help lead that effort and bring about these changes,” Cantor writes in the letter.

“Let us be under no illusion — many of those who cast their vote for Republicans yesterday have their share of doubts about whether we are up to the task of governing; about whether congressional Republicans have learned our lesson,” Cantor writes. “I harbor no such doubts. For the past two years, House Republicans dedicated ourselves to developing alternative solutions grounded in the time-tested principles of fiscal responsibility and small-government.”

As majority leader, Cantor says he would help Republicans “drain the swamp rather than learning to swim with the alligators.” But, he admits, his party isn’t going to succeed all at once.

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