To get an idea of just how unpopular spending is these days, look no further than the Senate Appropriations Committee. Assignments for the spending panel are just out, and six GOP freshmen were able to secure spots.
There was a time, not too long ago, that these spots were so coveted, a freshman had about as good a chance of getting on the panel as being crowned the Queen of England. But with two former committee members, Sens. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Robert Bennett, R-Utah, having lost their seats and one, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, nearly ousted by a Tea Party primary challenge, in large part, for their embrace of large spending measures, the proverbial bloom is off the rose.
What it also says is, like the presence of some fiscal hawks on the mirror-image panel in the House, the appetite for spending cuts is entering a new phase. Like Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a staunch earmark foe, who joined the House committee this year, Tea Party-backed conservative Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, are taking their deficit and debt reduction plans to a key committee.
Also joining the committee: Sens. Lindsey Graham, S.C., Mark Kirk, Ill., Dan Coats, Ind., Roy Blunt, Mo., and James Hoeven, N.D.
The grassroots movement of conservatives, known collectively as the Tea Party, demanded deep spending cuts in the past election as it threw its weighty support behind a number of candidates, and most in the group have called for the elimination of cabinet posts, like the Department of Education, departments and agencies that now must be funded in the annual appropriations process, setting up a dramatic spending showdown later this year. Another complicating factor, nearly every new member of the committee has either cosponsored or voiced support for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.
It's a double-edged sword for these GOP members, as they take on what many in their party view as an unpopular assignment. They get a key seat at the spending table to try to enact austerity measures, but now they must also figure out a way to dole out taxpayer money in a way that keeps the government functioning.