Congressman Rogers says GOP freshmen must learn to govern; says No Tax pledges should expire

11/22/2011 06:30 PM

Kentucky Republican Congressman Hal Rogers, the House appropriations chairman, said the recent split among House Republicans over spending bills reflects how new members have been slow to embrace their role of being part of the majority.

“A lot of our Republican members don’t want to vote for any appropriations bill, particularly the freshmen and the younger members,” Rogers, 73, said at the 2:50 mark of the video.

The House last week gave final approval to spending bills for several agencies, including the departments of agriculture, justice and transportation. But more House Democrats (165) voted for the “minibus” bill than members of the House Republican majority (133). More than 100 Republicans voted against it.

Rogers, first elected to Congress in 1980, said he remembers what that was like. But he said, as appropriations chairman, his role now is to point out their responsibility as members of the House majority.

“I just say look, ‘You’re in the majority, you’re supposed to govern. You don’t have the luxury of sitting on the back benches and lobbing hand grenades to the front like you were in the minority. You are in the majority. And your responsibility to the American people is to govern and to govern wisely. And that means you have to pass these appropriations bills after you have a chance to amend them,’” Rogers said.

Rogers also answered questions about tax increases — including the Americans for Tax Reform “No Tax” pledge. Rogers, starting at the 8:00 minute mark of the interview, said those pledges should only be good for one term at a time — not for life, as the group’s leader Grover Norquist insists.

“That’s his opinion,” Rogers said.

Congress must approve spending bills for nine other areas of the federal government by Dec. 16.

Rogers said the budgets for the Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Interior pose the biggest challenges.

“It’s not about spending — the level of spending — so much as it is that a lot of our members want some riders on each of those bills that force the agency to go one particular way or the other on some policy issue,” he said just before the 5:00 minute mark.

Congress also will have to decide next year whether to extend the tax cuts Congress first approved during President George W. Bush’s administration.

“I think we could reform those loopholes and get enough tax revenue to lower the tax rates of everyone else and spur the economy. That’s what I’d like to see,” he said at the 6:00 mark.

Rogers said he would consider ending the Bush-era tax cuts to be a tax increase.

And tax increases remain a key point of contention in Washington, especially as most of the Republicans in Congress — and some Democrats — have signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge not to raise any taxes. The head of that organization, Grover Norquist, has become a powerful figure in Washington and promises to get involved in campaigns against officials who sign the pledge but go back on it.

“I think it says that we have a policy and a position with which we agree with this man,” he said just before the 9:00 mark. “However, I think those pledges are only good for the Congress you’re elected to.”

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