The Chatter: Hal Rogers in the mix for appropriations chair derby

11/05/2010 06:40 AM

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset is making a major play to be the top lawmaker on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Rogers dispatched a letter Thursday to the current and newly-named members of the committee urging them to support his candidacy for the chairmanship, Politico reported on Thursday.

“The appropriations process is broken,” Rogers wrote in a letter obtained by POLITICO. “Not one of the twelve FY11 Appropriations bills was brought to the House floor under regular order and Congress hasn’t seen an open-to-amendment rule in years. Instead, debate was stifled, and spending bills were routinely written in Speaker Pelosi’s office. This will change. I believe it’s high time we allow our legislators to legislate, and let the Congress work its will under an open, transparent process.”

But picking the chairman of the powerful committee that decides how to spend $1 trillion worth of federal funds to agencies is proving to be “the biggest political headache” for soon-to-be Speaker of the House John Boehner and his leadership team, the Washington Post reported.

Rogers, who was first elected in 1980, has climbed the ranks to be the top Republican on the appropriations subcommittee for homeland security. California U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis, who has more seniority in Congress than Rogers, also is vying for the committee chairmanship. Lewis served as chairman in 2005 and 2006 and then as the ranking Republican for the last four years while the GOP was in the minority.

Lewis now wants leaders to waive House rules that limit chairmanships to three terms because he said he was in the minority for two.

Both Lewis and Rogers have “similar earmark record(s)” in which they’ve tagged billions of federal dollars to go to projects and programs in their home districts, the Post noted. That could be a large disadvantage in a year when cutting government spending and reforming the earmark process were major campaign rallying cries for Republicans.

In his letter to his colleagues, Rogers wrote that he will help Congress “return to fiscal austerity.” And he called for “upholding and extending the GOP-led moratorium on earmarks to achieve pre-TARP, pre-stimulus spending levels.”

In addition to using earmarks to direct money to the 5th District, Rogers was one of members of Congress who voted for the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) — or bank bailout bill — in 2008.

Rogers has been lobbying for the appropriations chairmanship for some time. He doled out more than $850,000 in campaign contributions to GOP candidates during the 2010 election cycle, as the Courier-Journal’s James Carroll reported.

And last week Rogers told Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, that he had locked up 19 of the 33 votes on the Republican steering committee that picks committee leadership.

- Compiled by Ryan Alessi


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