Hal Rogers to take over powerful U.S. House appropriations committee

12/07/2010 06:54 PM

The House Republicans’ steering committee selected U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset to head-up the appropriations committee in the next Congress giving Kentucky powerful voices in both chambers.

Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator, Mitch McConnell, is the Republicans’ leader in the upper chamber.

Rogers, who was first elected to Congress in 1980, takes the reins of the House appropriations committee at a time in which congressional Republicans have voted to voluntarily do away with one of the key tools Rogers and other lawmakers used to direct federal dollars to their home areas: earmarks.

Rogers is known for — and has run his past re-election campaigns on — his ability to steer billions of dollars of federal funds to his Eastern Kentucky district through earmarks. That has included money for dams and flood barriers, as well as the Operation UNITE program aimed at drug enforcement and treatment of drug abuse.

But earmarks became unpopular symbols of out-of-control government spending during the last election cycle. Candidates, including Kentucky senator-elect Rand Paul, condemned the practice as perpetrating wasteful spending and being done in a opaque manner.

Rogers pledged to his fellow Republicans in a letter last month that it was time to reject Congress’s earmarking ways of the past.

The Republican steering committee picked Rogers over California Rep. Jerry Lewis, who served one term as the appropriations chairman and two as the committee’s ranking Republican while the GOP was in the minority. Lewis, also a frequent user of earmarks, was seeking the chairmanship again despite the Republicans’ rule barring members from serving more than three terms in the top spot.

The House Republican caucus will have to ratify Rogers’ selection Wednesday.

The Democrats pounced soon after Rogers’ appointment. The Democratic Congressional Campaign issued a statement saying Republican leaders recommended him “despite Rogers’ record of letting budget deficits balloon and his reputation as Kentucky’s ‘Prince of Pork.’”

- Ryan Alessi

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