U.S. House Republican leaders named Representative Harold Rogers as their choice to head the Appropriations Committee, which would put the Kentuckian at the center of his party’s efforts next year to slash the federal budget.
The selection of Rogers, once named the “Prince of Pork” by a Kentucky newspaper, is expected to be confirmed by all Republican House members today. That will put him in charge of determining how to dole out more than $1 trillion in annual government spending.
Though the appropriations chairmanship has long been considered a plum assignment, the job description has changed amid mounting concern over budget deficits. The position’s primary responsibility now will involve deciding how to make good on Republican campaign promises to cut domestic “discretionary” spending by 20 percent.
Nor will Rogers have money to hand out for pet projects in lawmakers’ home states, following the decision last month by Republicans to continue a self-imposed moratorium on the so-called earmark process.
“The nation is in a fiscal crisis, and hard decisions are coming,” Rogers said in a statement after his selection yesterday. “I look forward to working with leadership and my Republican colleagues in fighting for serious reforms of the committee, bringing fiscal sanity back to our budgeting process, performing vigorous oversight of the failed job-creation policies of the Obama administration and moving our nation forward.”
Tea Party Concerns
Tea Party activists who helped Republicans win a House majority in last month’s elections and the lawmakers they support will be among those pressing for an overhaul in the committee’s operation to emphasize spending cuts. Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican closely affiliated with the Tea Party movement, said he could support Rogers “as long as he’s repenting from his earmarking past.”
Rogers, 72, was picked over Representative Jerry Lewis of California, the ranking Republican on the panel, who had sought a waiver from the party’s term-limit rules for committee service, and Georgia Republican Jack Kingston. All had promised to reduce spending, with Lewis releasing an itemized list of more than $40 billion in cuts.
Rogers was one of 17 panel heads chosen by the House Republican steering committee in a closed-door session. The group consists of 34 lawmakers, including incoming Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Its picks will be offered tomorrow to the party’s entire House caucus.
Other New Chairmen
The committee also selected Michigan Republican Fred Upton over Joe Barton of Texas to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee. Barton in June sparked a political backlash from both parties when he accused the White House of a “shakedown” by pressuring BP Plc to set aside $20 billion for damage claims from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus was selected over California’s Ed Royce to run the Financial Services Committee, which oversees Wall Street.
Rogers, currently the ranking member of the Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, promised the steering committee in a PowerPoint presentation released by his office to push to rescind unspent stimulus funding, deny funding for President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul and put the Environmental Protection Agency “and other job-killing regulatory agencies on notice.”
‘Prince of Pork’
Rogers’ endorsement of the party’s earmark moratorium marks an about-face for him. The Lexington Herald-Leader, in dubbing him the “Prince of Pork,” called Rogers “the very model of an old-fashioned pork-barrel politician who builds an empire out of government spending.” Over the past three years, he has taken home $246 million in earmarks, according to the Washington-based Taxpayers for Common Sense.
“He has gone out of his way to make sure that he took care of his district, which by all accounts is a fairly poor district,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of the taxpayers group. “But that’s got to change now that he’s the chairman of the full committee -- he’s got to make decisions that are in the best interests of the country and in the best interests of taxpayers, not just in the best interests of his constituents.”
Changes pushed by Boehner include breaking up the 12 annual appropriations bills the committee handles for government agencies into smaller measures. Boehner has said that cutting spending would be easier if the bills -- which often include funding for scores of unrelated programs -- were more narrowly focused.
“The whole Appropriations Committee is going to change from a spending committee to an efficiency committee, where it’s finding and eliminating waste,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican who will serve as majority whip in the next Congress.
“We’re going to make the cuts we need to make,” said Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican and critic of earmarks whom Boehner has endorsed for membership on the committee.
For other committee heads, the steering group made the following selections: Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Agriculture; Buck McKeon of California, Armed Services; Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Budget; John Kline of Minnesota, Education; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Foreign Affairs; Peter King of New York, Homeland Security.
Also, Lamar Smith of Texas, Judiciary; Doc Hastings of Washington, Natural Resources; Darrell Issa of California, Oversight; Ralph Hall of Texas, Science and Technology; Dave Camp of Michigan, Ways and Means; Sam Graves of Missouri, Small Business; John Mica of Florida, Transportation; and Jeff Miller of Florida, Veterans Affairs.