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Appropriators Seeking Order

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Mike Simpson, chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee, says Republicans need to reconsider how amendments to appropriations bills are dealt with to get things done.

“Chairman Rogers is committed to completing the FY 2013 appropriations bills as quickly as possible,” a full committee spokeswoman said, referring to Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). “He has asked our cardinals to get their bills written expeditiously so we may begin the committee process early to have the bills ready for the floor, giving all Members the opportunity to consider each of the 12 bills.”

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson said her main concern in meeting the deadline is keeping her financial services and general government appropriations bill free of controversial amendments. The Missouri Republican’s measure was among the final pieces to move last year, as an amendment that would have tightened Cuba visitation restrictions drew the ire of the Obama administration and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“We had some issues on Cuba and my goal will be to keep anything with regard to Cuba out of the bill, keep it noncontroversial in that regard,” Emerson said. “Everyone understands that is a tough issue. ... You don’t want to hold a bill up over that.”

Another option could be putting a cap on the total number of amendments each side can introduce and letting leadership decide which ones to bring forward, said Rep. Robert Aderholt, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

“I think we have to be more disciplined if we’re going to go by regular order,” the Alabama Republican said. “I would not be in favor of trying to completely shut down the open amendment process. I think we just have to maybe limit it, and I think a fair way to do it would be to let each side have a limited number of amendments to bring up.”

Rep. Jack Kingston, chairman of the subcommittee dealing with agriculture, noted that it could be a troublesome route, bringing the Conference back to something resembling the tightly controlled House of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“It’s actually contrary to what the Speaker said a year ago about open process, open rules, not rigging things on the floor,” the Georgia Republican said. At the same time, it would be smart to avoid votes on amendments that could hurt Members in swing districts, he said.

Kingston suggested that the Conference could avoid an intraparty fight by having an “open, up-front dialogue” with Members, telling them, “‘You need to think this through.’”

“What’s hero legislation for you might be very, very difficult for someone else, and it can bog down the bills, and then I see, instead of enjoying the regular order of things, we’re back in the omnibus
business,” he said.

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