Rogers ready for McConnell-led Senate, return to "old fashioned way" of appropriating

12/28/2014 09:15 AM

Count U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers among those eager for a new Republican-controlled Congress to convene Jan. 6, especially since a fellow Kentuckian will be leading the Senate.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell made his 15-point re-election victory this fall a referendum on President Barack Obama, particularly his administration’s policies to cut carbon-dioxide emissions at power plants.

McConnell, the incoming Senate majority leader, has repeatedly stressed his plans to slash funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the next round of budget talks, and he’ll have a willing partner in Rogers, a Somerset Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Rogers said he’s looking forward to the day when bills passed by the House won’t end up in U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s, the current majority leader, “wastebasket.”

“Now McConnell is going to process those bills that we passed on spending, and in those spending bills there will be some riders that will try to restrict some of these agencies like EPA who’ve gone crazy,” Rogers told Pure Politics recently. “We’ve already cut their budget by 20 percent, but I guarantee you there will be more of that unless they come to their senses.”

The two GOP congressmen also see eye-to-eye on the entire budgeting process. McConnell said earlier this month at a Kentucky Farm Bureau conference that rather than passing a single spending bill, he would prefer passing the 12 appropriations measures one at a time to avoid showdowns that could shutdown the federal government.

Rogers told Pure Politics he’s looking forward to a return to that “old fashioned way” of funding the government.

“That’s where members of the House and Senate can have an impact on a piece of legislation, not one great big blob called an omnibus that’s too big to chew up,” Rogers said.

Congress is poised for its first spending showdown in February over Obama’s executive action on deferred deportations of some undocumented immigrants. Republicans in Washington, hoping to stop the president’s proposal, only funded the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27 in the “cromnibus” spending bill passed earlier this month.

Rogers is one of those looking to end Obama’s “insane amnesty plan,” he said.

“It remains to be seen precisely how we will do that,” Rogers said. “We don’t want to talk about details at this point in time, but the effort will be made at all costs to try to undo his amnesty program.”

But the effort may be in vain. In an analysis of the cromnibus spending bill by the Congressional Research Service, The Hill reported that 85 percent of DHS employees continued to work as essential federal employees in the 16-day government shutdown last year, with 90 percent of the agency’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services staff also on the clock during that time.

What’s more, DHS officials would have substantial input in how the agency responds to a shutdown. From The Hill:

But there’s one catch: any bills Republicans pass to block Obama’s immigration action are sure to meet a presidential veto. And if Republicans refuse to fund the DHS at the end of February, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson would have wide discretion in deciding which of his nearly quarter million employees should be deemed “essential.”

Administration officials who managed the 2013 shutdown said each agency was required to draft a shutdown plan that identified “essential” workers, submit it to White House budget officials and post it online. In some cases, congressional appropriators weighed in and questioned the need for certain essential employees, prompting agencies to revise their plans.

But appropriators were not asked to officially sign off on the shutdown blueprints, sources said. And agencies decided on a day-to-day basis whether furloughed employees should be called back to work or essential employees should be furloughed.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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