Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) — a self-described “pro-life, pro-gun constitutional conservative” — never expected to serve on the House Appropriations Committee. As he puts it, he didn’t come to Washington to be “a part of spending money.”

Now, even though he serves on Appropriations, he still makes spending cuts his focus.

“I’m thankful leadership has allowed me to be who I am, to ask tough questions and to take a different approach in the committee process,” Graves said yesterday at Heritage during The Bloggers Briefing. “My hopes are that we can reform the way Washington operates.”

Fortunately for Graves, his constituents support his reform agenda. Of 627 constituents polled at a recent tele-townhall meeting, 463 — or 74 percent — want major reforms to entitlements.

“Our constituents understand; they know we we need to make significant changes,” Graves said. “Everyone agrees we need to move toward a balanced budget, we need spending caps in place and we need major reforms to the entitlement areas.”

But it won’t be easy, Graves said. The congressman has witnessed firsthand just how entrenched the culture of waste really is.

Take just one example: At a recent Appropriations meeting, a department head reported several ideas to eliminate inefficiency within his agency. One of Graves’ Democratic colleagues on the committee objected to the department head’s ideas — because reducing inefficiency might cost someone a job. This colleague, Graves said, refuses to use the self-check-out lane at the grocery store for the same reason.

Graves has a different perspective. He’s no less concerned than his colleague about the economy and ongoing unemployment. In fact, he thinks those issues deserve more media attention than they currently receive — but he thinks the slow economy and high government spending are two sides of the same coin.

“What hits home more than anything is somebody without a job right now,” he said. “We need to get our nation back on track to being a vibrant economy and the only way we can do that is to reduce government spending in Washington.”