Whatever prompted Robert D. Novak's gratuitous attack on me and the House Appropriations Committee six months after my departure as chairman [op-ed, June 14] will remain a mystery, but his demonstration of ignorance of the appropriations process cannot go unchallenged.

In 1994 the Republicans assumed narrow control of the House, and we proceeded to change the attitude by which Washington had been run during the 40 years of Democratic control.

Speaker Newt Gingrich appointed me chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and, notwithstanding the occasional carping of Mr. Novak, we had one of the best-run committees on Capitol Hill.

Did I retain some committee staff who had been on the payroll? You bet. While most committees were floundering with staff who were 100 percent Republican but unschooled in the ways of Congress, our committee was immediately organized and passing legislation to scale back the cost of government and eliminate programs in the most significant rescission bill of modern times.

And that was the record of the past four years. The committee produced because its members and staff were professionals. We passed bills in the face of heavy Democratic opposition in the House and Senate and despite the best efforts of a politically astute president.

Mr. Novak never understood the process, and he certainly never has had to pass a bill. In contrast, our committee passed 62 bills into law over four years.

Mr. Novak also found fault with my putting Rep. Silvio Conte's picture on my office wall. Mr. Conte was the ranking Republican leader of the committee throughout most of my service on the committee. He was a friend and mentor. Was he more liberal than I? Most certainly -- he represented his people in Massachusetts and was reelected for more than 30 years, and I, as a conservative, was reelected for more than 20 years in the South. We may not always have agreed on the issues, but I am proud to call him my friend.

We appropriators were a bulwark imposed by the Republican majority. With the leadership of Jim Dyer, the chief clerk of the committee, we froze the growth of the discretionary budget (the only portion over which we had jurisdiction) over four years. We eliminated more than 300 programs, and we saved the taxpayers the hundreds of billions of dollars that President Clinton would have spent with a Democratic Congress.