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House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers earned a reputation as the prince of pork, but he’s quickly proving that he can embrace the new culture of GOP austerity.
The Kentucky Republican is facing his first major test atop the panel as House Republicans move to cut billions in federal spending in the continuing resolution. Rogers’ task has been complicated by GOP leaders’ decision to bring the measure to the floor under an open process — allowing for hundreds of amendments to be considered. The CR would keep the government funded through Sept. 30.
Although some conservatives questioned whether Rogers would have the stomach to slash spending when he took the gavel, so far he has assuaged their concerns by publicly committing to cuts in the CR. He also has taken the extra step to affirm his commitment to the new anti-spending culture by offering to pare his committee’s own budget by 9 percent for the rest of the year. Other Member offices scaled back budgets by just 5 percent.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio), who successfully led the charge for an additional $26 billion in cuts to the CR, acknowledged appropriators are in uncharted territory as they move to reduce spending.
The measure now contains a total of $100 billion in cuts from President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request. Jordan said he talked to Rogers several times as GOP appropriators worked to craft the final CR language and that he listened to the will of the Conference.
“This is truly amazing to see appropriators coming in and reducing spending,” Jordan said. “I applaud them for doing that and applaud them for listening to the Conference.”
Even-keeled, Rogers has earned high marks from his fellow committee members, even those who did not want him to helm the panel after Republicans won the majority in November.
Rep. Jerry Lewis, who tried to get a waiver so he could continue as chairman this Congress, said Rogers has been cool under pressure.
“He has the toughest job in town, and I think he’s handling it well,” the California Republican said.
Rep. Jack Kingston, who also faced off against Rogers for the chairmanship in December, said Rogers has “done a great job” settling into his new role.
“He responded to the leadership’s prorated number of $58 billion and came up with a good bill. Yet when the Conference overruled that number, he was flexible enough to say, ‘OK, let’s go back and get it up to $100 billion,’” Kingston said.
The Georgia Republican said Rogers “never flinched but shifted gears in a different direction and accommodated the Conference,” adding that finding $26 billion in new cuts in the CR was “no small task.”