Additionally, while the final appropriations level will not zero out funding for all of Obama’s signature health care law, Republicans were successful in eliminating increases to the IRS targeted toward implementing parts of the law.
And those are just some of the dozens of policy provisions large and small that Rogers tucked into the bill, largely at the request of authorizing committees who found themselves unable to move almost any part of their agendas.
Although committees passed numerous regulatory reform measures and other GOP priorities, they “send it the Senate, and it dies. So the authorizers got little done this year … so the only other place to go is the appropriations bills. We did more riders than I can ever recall on an omnibus bill,” Rogers said.
But the road to success wasn’t easy for Rogers. In fact, if you had told just about anyone in Washington a year ago that Rogers — one of the last Old Bulls left in a House dominated by angry ideologues — would sit atop the most powerful committee in Congress, you would have been laughed out of town.
“Those earmarks were helpful in recruiting votes” in the past, Rogers acknowledged.
“We knew it was going to be difficult for any number of reasons. One, in our caucus, we had so many new Members, 87 of ’em, half of them had never served in any political office and most of whom were elected on a platform of slashing spending, frankly beyond anything that was possible, but nevertheless, they came here with that in their mandate,” Rogers said.
Rogers said that reality was particularly difficult to deal with because Congress “immediately jump into the H.R. 1 omnibus, because we were left with no appropriations bills … and we had all those new Members who were crying for blood on spending. So we started on H.R. 1.”
Although Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) largely controlled that process, Rogers said it paved the way for their eventual successes on the handful of spending measures that were passed.
The freshmen “got their feet wet in the process and learned a lot of the ins and outs of this place,” Rogers said, adding that the open amendment process also helped because “the votes they were having to take were pretty tough votes one way or the other.”
Rogers also credited Boehner’s leadership style in his ability to be successful.
“Leadership has been very helpful. The fact that Speaker Boehner was able to negotiate that debt ceiling” with a spending cap “to get us on the same wavelength as the Senate” made things much easier, Rogers said.
More fundamentally, Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) early on agreed to leave spending matters up to Rogers and his cardinals, which allowed them to more effectively negotiate with the Senate and with other House Republicans.
“The Speaker, to his great credit, and the Leader, deferred to us on this bill. At the outset we said, ‘Look, we can handle this,’” Rogers said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.