Former Rep. Zach Wamp, predecessor to Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, offered brief comments Monday regarding the current congressman's being named to an open seat on the House Committee on Appropriations last week.
Wamp, who served in Congress for eight terms, spent a decade on the committee assigned with the oversight of federal spending. Along with his work on the committee, Wamp became known for using his seat as a selling point for retaining the 3rd District seat in Congress for 16 years.
Asked for comment following the release of a new online STEM program in Chattanooga, Wamp said he was "grateful" that the congressman had been named to the powerful committee, despite the group's role having been changed since his tenure in Congress.
"The role of appropriations has changed a lot since I was an appropriator," Wamp said. "Rightly, they have banned the ability for members to direct funding, you know, the old word 'earmarking.' But congressional direction of appropriations was not only commonplace, but expected, years ago, and today you can't do it … so really, the Appropriations Committee is more about cutting spending now than it is identifying how to spend the money, but there still is an element of prioritization in the spending bills."
Wamp said that because of being able to have an influence on prioritizing, Fleischmann would be able to advocate for projects within the district, such as the Chickamauga Lock and Oak Ridge National Laboratory—both of which have been mentioned by the congressman as key issues since his being named to the committee last Thursday.
"What you'll see coming from Congressman Fleischmann—and I'm grateful that he was named by the steering committee, led by Speaker Boehner, because it will help our district and our state—is that when priorities are set on science, for instance, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is going to compete with every laboratory in the country for its programs. And you could say, well, cut them all—but Congress has a role of setting the priorities for which ones are more important and which ones are less important, which ones get cut first and which ones get cut last."
Although Fleischmann's role in helping to acquire funding for items such as the deteriorating lock remain to be seen, Wamp added that simply being on the committee would play to his advantage more than being stuck outside.
"It's actually better for your peers to have you on the committee than it is to have you standing outside, raising cain while the meeting's going on," he said. "So it will help us that he's actually in the room when these things are being discussed, instead of outside in the hall."