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Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis: Budgetary Politics

Rep. Jerry Lewis, the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has the job of putting President Bush's $2.5 trillion budget into practice. The California Republican is faced with new efforts at fiscal restraint meant to trim the national deficit, even as expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to mount.

Lewis was first elected to Congress in 1978, representing an area of Southern California that includes San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. He has chaired committees controlling defense spending, as well as funds for agencies from Veterans Affairs to the EPA.

The task of organizing and planning the Appropriations Committee's year has already begun for Lewis, who downplays the absence of spending in Iraq and Afghanistan from the budget. "One way or another, we're going to pay for the costs of war," Lewis says. The real debate, he added, is "How do we solve this challenge in the Middle East?"

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.