This is from earlier this month, but is a hopeful sign, which is welcome amid all the doom and gloom about going over the fiscal cliff. The Hill newspaper reports that Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland will take over the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee after the death of Senator Inouye. Senator Leahy and Senator Harkin both outranked her in seniority, but they chose to keep the chairmanships they already had (Judiciary, and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, respectively):
The Leahy and Harkin decisions may at least partly reflect the declining appeal of Appropriations in a time where austerity rather than stimulus spending dominates the conversation and earmarks are no longer the currency of influence in Congress.
The Hill article refers to the Appropriations chairmanship as a "once-coveted post."
From a non-Washington perspective, it's a bit hard to understand how $3.6 trillion (or so) a year in annual federal outlays county as "austerity," but apparently we've reached the point where being the Appropriations Committee chairman means saying "no" enough to make it less attractive than it used to be.