By John Celock
A former Republican congressman seeking a comeback against a GOP incumbent has outlined his pro-earmark and anti-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) platform during a radio show Monday morning.
Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) said on “The Joseph Ashby Show” on KQAM radio in Wichita that he would oppose Boehner for reelection as speaker, while seeking to restore earmarks, which were taken out by House Republicans in 2011. Tiahrt is challenging Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) in the August GOP primary in the Wichita area district. Tiahrt has represented the district until 2010 when he unsuccessfully sought a U.S. Senate seat.
“I am not a Boehner guy, he’s Boehner’s boy,” Tiahrt told Ashby about the speaker and Pompeo.
Tiahrt cited Pompeo’s appointments to the House Intelligence Committee and the Benghazi Investigation Committee for his reasoning.
Tiahrt said that he did not vote for Boehner for House minority leader during his tenure in Congress, but noted that most of the time the internal GOP vote was done via acclimation instead of a formal vote. Tiahrt also noted that he would have opposed House Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy (R-Cal.) in last week’s election.
Ashby said after Tiahrt left the show that Tiahrt had stressed to him off the air that he would oppose Boehner and the current House GOP leadership but said that “it’s not personal.”
Tiahrt’s opposition to Boehner would follow in the footsteps of Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) from a neighboring district, who has been a vocal opponent of Boehner. Huelskamp’s strategy of opposing Boehner has had repercussions as the speaker has removed Huelskamp, who represents a largely rural district, from the House Agriculture Committee. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), who represents a district in the northeastern part of the state serves in Boehner’s leadership team as vice chairwoman of the Republican Caucus.
Tiahrt spent most of the interview expanding of his views of why is he supporting the return of earmarks. He said that the 2011 decision to end the practice shifted power to the Executive Branch and President Barack Obama for spending decisions. He said now Obama and his administration can decide how to appropriate money for specific projects instead of Congress.
Tiahrt was pushing the portions of the Constitution that give spending power to Congress.
“It’s Congress’ constitutional responsibility to allocate funding. They have not done their job. They have not properly done their job,” Tiahrt said. “Earmarks, which do not raise spending, has not done this job and handed it to the president. They have handed a blank check to the president.”
Earmarks have been a point of opposition by House Republicans in recent years, noting that it would be a way to lower federal spending. Earmarks have long been used by Congress to allocate funds for specific projects in their districts by attaching the projects to spending bills. The practice became more controversial in recent years based on several projects funded by earmarks. These included the so-called Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska.
The race between Tiahrt and Pompeo has become one of the most competitive races in Kansas this year. Pompeo’s campaign has been attacking Tiahrt’s stance on earmarks, with his campaign manager, Jim Richardson, highlighting that Tiahrt wanted to restore the practice during an interview with the Weekly Standard last week.
Pompeo has continued to oppose earmarks, introducing legislation earlier this year to abolish the Economic Development Administration, saying that it was being used to distribute earmark like grants around the country.
Tiahrt said he wants to reduce Obama’s power, saying that he is opposed to Obama saying he wants to focus on governing via executive order. Obama made the statement as his legislative agenda has been blocked by Congress, noting he can focus on his regulatory powers. The practice is not uncommon for second term presidents, as Bill Clinton famously issued scores of new regulations in his final year in office and George W. Bush used signing statements to interpret new legislation.
Tiahrt said that during his congressional tenure in the 1990s, House Republicans were able to force Clinton to accept new ideas including balanced budgets and new welfare laws. He said this should happen now with Obama.
“This Congress is either too lazy or doesn’t know that it is their constitutional responsibility to fund the government,” Tiahrt said.