“There’d be pressure on the Speaker and Leader to intervene and tell us to do such and so … and they didn’t do that. They told those people, ‘Look you have to deal with Hal Rogers and the committee.’ And that was really helpful because it gave us a single place where we could negotiate.”
Rogers and the subcommittee chairmen spent much of the year working with rank-and-file Members, as well as authorizers, explaining to them what they could do and how best to pursue policy priorities through the appropriations process.
Still, when push came to shove in December, Rogers faced a difficult lift, particularly with the GOP Conference’s younger Members.
“Many of them were nervous with voting for something they didn’t have much knowledge of,” Rogers said. So he organized a meeting with subcommittee chairmen to go through the bill “subcommittee by subcommittee” and explain it in detail.
And while he still ultimately lost numerous Republicans, “I’ve heard so many freshmen especially since then say, ‘That opened my eyes up to what you guys do,’” Rogers said.
He said the attacks on Appropriations’ stature — and the prevailing hostility toward spending — also helped to break the partisan divide on the committee and bring the Members closer together.
“It’s been very acrimonious, very partisan. Norm Dicks and I agreed that we were gonna dial that stuff back and get back to regular order, the way Appropriations has historically done. And we had to because we’re the only committee that has to pass bills or the government shuts down,” Rogers said.
“The relationship I have with Norm Dicks is the best,” Rogers added, describing his Democratic colleague as representing “fairness and reasonableness.”
In the end, Rogers said, Members on both sides of the aisle had a mutual goal.
“Members wanted to bring it back to its stature, and I think we’ve come a long way in that regard,” he said.