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Washington • Freshman Utah Rep. Chris Stewart has been named to the powerful House Appropriations Committee, a spot that gives the Republican a hands-on role in doling out federal funds and overseeing government spending.
The appointment, announced Wednesday, means that Stewart will likely have to give up his seat on the Natural Resources Committee and his chairmanship of a House subcommittee dealing with climate-change issues, a controversial spot for the Utahn who has said he isn't convinced of the threat behind global warming.
But Stewart says the new role will allow him to try and rein in federal spending while still keeping an eye on Western-related concerns.
"The thing is, I'm viewing this as a great opportunity to reform spending," Stewart said Wednesday. "We need good conservatives on the Appropriations Committee."
Utah hasn't had a member of that committee since 1981 when then-Democratic Rep. Gunn McKay lost his re-election bid to Republican Rep. Jim Hansen.
Stewart, who was elected last year, had been serving on the Natural Resources Committee and has asked to stay on, though typically members of the Appropriations panel aren't allowed to serve on other committees.
The congressman, who will be the only freshman on the committee, said he has requested to serve on the subcommittees overseeing public-lands issues as well as the Department of Defense. Stewart is a former U.S. Air Force pilot.
Landing a spot on the Appropriations Committee had been a difficult challenge in the past, although with Congress mired in gridlock, its clout has been diminished as budgets are now passed in a stopgap form and not through a regular process.
Stewart says it's still an important spot, and he looks forward to the time when Congress is back working through spending bills on the committee level.
"Historically, Appropriations has been a very powerful committee and I would imagine in the long run, that's still true," he said.
Second-term GOP Reps. Mark Amodei of Nevada and Martha Roby of Alabama also joined the committee Wednesday.
"Members of the Appropriations Committee have tough jobs to do and have a great responsibility to properly fund the federal government and support the well-being of the nation," said committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky. "These dedicated public servants have proven their commitment to the responsible shepherding of federal tax dollars, to the regular Appropriations process, and to both the people of their districts and the American people as a whole."