James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Created: 12/07/2010 04:01:41 PM PST

Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, will not reprise his role as chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee in the coming session of Congress.

A Republican congressional committee instead chose Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., to lead the committee. Rogers’ selection must be confirmed by the rest of the House Republican caucus, but Lewis said Tuesday he looks forward to working with Rogers over the next two years.

“We have a huge job ahead of us, and I know Chairman Rogers will work diligently to carry out the work the American people elected us to do,” Lewis said in a statement Tuesday.

The appropriations committee and its chairman have a huge influence on how and where federal dollars are spent. In his long tenure on the committee, and especially during his stint as chairman and ranking member, Lewis was able to steer hundreds of millions of dollars – in the form of special funding requests called earmarks – to governments and private companies in the Inland Empire.

But Republicans have pledged not to do earmarks this year, so Lewis’ failure to retake the chairman’s seat could be of little consequence for the area. But if earmarks do find their way into federal spending bills, the area could be losing out without Lewis atop the committee.

“It’s incredibly important that Jerry (Lewis) get that position,” John Husing, an economist who studies the Inland Empire, said before the steering committee’s decision had been announced. “That’s one of the positions that can help counteract some of the lack of federal funds in this area. By itself, it can’t fix it, but it can help.”

Over the years, Husing said Lewis has been immensely helpful in securing federal funds for roads and other public infrastructure projects.

“One of the things that’s been impressive about Jerry (Lewis) is the kind of projects he has earmarked have generally been incredibly important,” Husing said. “It’s been for major infrastructure projects in the community.”

Lewis campaigned hard over the past month to reclaim the chairmanship, which he held in 2005 and 2006 before Republicans lost their majority in the House.

While campaigning for the position, he said he would strip federal funding for public broadcasting, cut unspent money from the stimulus program and take money away from the enforcement of some environmental regulations.

Lewis’ campaign got a boost last week when the Department of Justice announced that it was dropping a four-year investigation into Lewis and his ties to a lobbyist.

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