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Appropriations Chairman ‘Giddy’ Over Blowout Omnibus Vote

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said he was “almost giddy” after the strong bipartisan vote to pass the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill on the House floor Wednesday afternoon.

“This gives us a big boost here, this vote, this big vote,” said the Kentucky Republican, “this spirit and attitude that prevailed.”

Rogers spent weeks negotiating the massive package of all 12 appropriations bills with his counterpart in the Senate, Rep. Barbara A. Mikluski, D-Md., along with other senior appropriators on both sides of the aisle and chamber.

They slogged through hundreds of controversial policy riders and squabbled over top-line numbers to appease members across political spectrum of the rank and file. And then, when it became clear that the omnibus had enough votes to pass the House, it wasn’t clear just how wide the margin of victory would be.

The finally tally was 359-67.

“I think it’s a really good demonstration of the worthiness of trying to work across the aisle and across the dome,” Rogers told reporters in the Speaker’s Lobby immediately following the passage vote. “After all, I think, I was just reflecting in there a few minutes ago in the chamber, that hallowed place, where we survived depressions and wars and all sorts of difficulties over the years. But we always came through these things because we were able to work common problems out across the aisle.

“And that’s what happened here,” Rogers continued. “It was a good exercise in bipartisanship and working together for the common good.”

In the end, 64 Republicans — all of the hard-line conservative ilk — voted “no,” along with just three Democrats — Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, Rush D. Holt of New Jersey and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina.

Standing with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Rogers held a print-out of the tally sheet with the “no” Republican votes, but laughed off suggestions that he was heading to make some angry phone calls to the opposition.

“I like to keep a record of who’s for what,” he explained. “Every member votes their conscience, and I respect that. I’m sure each member has their reason for voting as they did, and I’m not one to criticize.”

Rogers also acknowledged that while the omnibus vote could herald in a new era of cooperation in the House and, quite possibly, passage of all the appropriations bills this year through the elusive “regular order,” it would be a rocky road yet.

“It will be tough, but this was no easy sleigh ride,” said Rogers of the omnibus. “I think it portends well for the future. I think we’ll have a restored attitude on the Appropriations Committee about working together, and the necessity of doing that. This gets the train back on track … [and] gives us a chance during the coming year to do things.”

Rogers said the fiscal 2015 appropriations cycle will soon get under way, but first he’s giving his staff their overdue “Christmas vacation,” as most appropriations aides had to work through the holiday season to meet the mid-January deadline to avert a government shutdown.

First, and just for now, he just wants to savor the moment.

“I’m not a sentimentalist,” Rogers mused. “This won’t last too long. But it’s nice to smell the roses, at least for a day.”

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