The Rural Blog: Congressman from nation’s most rural district will head House Appropriations Committee

December 10, 2010 | EPA, Regulations

The congressman from the country’s most rural district, and one of its poorest, will become chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in January after his selection by the Republican Steering Committee yesterday. We broke the news in October that Harold "Hal" Rogers of Somerset in Appalachian Kentucky’s 5th District had the votes he needed.

The 30-year veteran of the House, who was a radio announcer before becoming a lawyer, has been a skilled slicer of "pork" for his district. Some of his projects have gone beyond the usual definition, including programs to fight drug abuse, clean up trash and eliminate untreated sewage discharges, and promote tourism in the region. Last session he joined other House Republicans in banning budget earmarks by members, and "publicly shifted his tone on earmarks in the wake of the Tea Party-fueled Republican takeover of the House amid concerns of unchecked spending," Hamillah Abdullah of the McClatchy Newspapers Washington Bureau reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"Though the appropriations chairmanship has long been considered a plum assignment, the job description has changed amid mounting concern over budget deficits," notes Brian Faler of Bloomberg News. The position’s primary responsibility now will involve deciding how to make good on Republican campaign promises to cut domestic “discretionary” spending by 20 percent. Nor will Rogers have money to hand out for pet projects in lawmakers’ home states, following the decision last month by Republicans to continue a self-imposed moratorium on the so-called earmark process." 

However, we bet Rogers and his subcommittee chairmen will find ways to steer smaller sums of money to their districts, through behind-the-scenes negotiations with officials in the executive branch — a process that would be much less transparent than the one Congress has followed for the last few years, after earmarks became an issue.

Another Kentuckian got an important job in the House yesterday. Rep. Ed Whitfield of the 1st District was picked to head the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Politico reports.

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