House GOP leaders named Moolenaar to budget team

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Republican House leaders have appointed freshman U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar of Midland to the House-Senate conference committee responsible for drawing up a final budget blueprint for 2016.

Moolenaar, a member of the House Budget Committee, is one of five Republicans appointed by Speaker John Boehner. The others are Reps. Tom Price of Georgia, chairman of the Budget Committee; Todd Rokita of Indiana, vice chairman; Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida; and Diane Black of Tennessee.

"I am thankful for the trust placed in me, and I look forward to continuing to work on a fiscally responsible budget that will boost the slowly growing economy, create jobs and raise wages," Moolenaar said in a statement.

Conference committee members work to reconcile differences between the House and Senate budgets and forward a single budget to both chambers for consideration.

"It shows that Moolenaar is a man with whom party leadership is comfortable, and that bodes well for him in terms of climbing the ladder in the House, and rebuilding some of the seniority that Michigan has lost in recent years," said Kyle Kondik, who follows Congress for the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

In January, former state Sen. Moolenaar replaced Rep. Dave Camp, the retiring Republican chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. Other Michigan delegation members who retired at the end of 2014 included Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit; Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history; and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Howell.

David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, said House leaders could have in mind Moolenaar's state-level experience in budgeting and negotiations or they might be sending a message to others in the Republican caucus what it takes to get on Boehner's good side.

"The fact is, the new member might be there for the speaker to control," Yepsen said. "The speaker generally likes to have pretty tight control of what's happening in the committee."

Kondik wondered whether Moolenaar would have gotten the assignment without his previous legislative experience.

"This is something voters should consider when they are choosing candidates in primaries and general elections: Political novices can be great candidates and lawmakers, but people with actual experience can be as well, and they might have an easier time getting off to a fast start in Congress than those with little experience," Kondik said.