In particular, the GOP has gone after half a dozen or more committee chairmen who had not faced stiff competition in years. It is a double-barreled approach: Republicans think the threat of energetic challengers will propel some veterans into retirement, making for easier pickup opportunities. Or, should they choose to run, the Democrats might find themselves with deteriorated campaign skills, making them vulnerable in what amounts to their first tough race in the YouTube era...NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) and his staff crafted the strategy of challenging the chairmen and other veterans along with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), the GOP's lead recruiter, who has studied past wave elections in which control of the House flipped. Republicans are taking a page from the Democratic playbook in 2006, when they picked up 31 seats and reclaimed the majority.
The Hill reports that pork has become toxic:
The landscape for earmarkers in Congress has changed dramatically this election cycle.
Appropriators from both parties have become the hunted, losing primary races to challengers more hawkish about reforming the provisions lawmakers insert in spending bills to steer money to specific projects in their districts or states. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) was derisively dubbed “Earmark Queen” by GOP gubernatorial primary winner Gov. Rick Perry’s supporters. Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) was ousted last weekend by two earmark hawks. And Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, lost to a conservative Democrat who questioned the propriety and impact of Mollohan’s earmarks
It used to be said that there were three political parties in Congress: Republicans, Democrats and appropriators. The appropriators were notorious for protecting their own turf and fighting together to resist the influence of leadership.
But the leadership fought back, threatening to punish those who resisted their entreaties. And the committee became more partisan, less collegial and less effective.
Over the years, the committee gained a reputation not for efficiency or high ethical standards, but as a place where members cuts deals to benefit themselves personally or, worse, to benefit friendly lobbyists.
And as its reputation became tarnished, it became more and more of a liability to serve on the once-powerful perch that used to assure reelection.