House could finish 2012 spending by Christmas, say committee leaders

A bipartisan note sounded on the House Appropriations Committee Thursday, when chairman and ranking member concurred in their desire to finish the 2012 appropriations process by year's end.

Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) noted that the decks would be cleared for 2013, and the House would have approved all 12 annual spending bills for the first time in years.

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Speaking on the House floor, Rogers said his committee was prevented from doing its regular work this year by focusing on funding for fiscal 2011, as the Democratic Congress did not approve a budget the prior year. After that, the debt-ceiling crisis was another obstacle.

"So we were prevented on the committee from doing our regular chores," Rogers said in a discussion with Dicks. "And as the gentleman says, we want to finish these bills for fiscal '12 so that finally in fiscal '13 we can have a real clean year, taking each bill one by one.

"It's my hope and ambition ... that we finish these bills before the end of the calendar year this year," Rogers added.

Dicks agreed, but said the process would run even more smoothly next year if Republicans abandon some of the policy riders that have been placed on various spending bills this year.

"And speaking of a clean year, let's try to get rid of as many of those riders as we can, Mr. Chairman," Dicks said. "You know it's the right thing to do."

The two committee members were debating a motion to go to conference with the Senate on H.R. 2112, the first spending bill the Senate has approved all year. After months of noting that the Senate has failed to take up any spending bills, both Rogers and Dicks seemed pleased that the Senate had finally acted.

"I'm glad to see that the other body is actually bringing some of these minibuses to the floor and allowing their members to have a vote," Dicks said. "So I think we have inspired them."

"Well, that would take some doing," Rogers replied to some laughter in the chamber.

Rogers added that House and Senate conferees were planning to meet later Thursday on H.R. 2112, which is an agriculture spending bill in the House but which combines Agriculture; Commerce; Justice; Science and Transportation; and housing in the Senate.

"That's the first time we've had a House-Senate appropriations conference in years," Rogers said. "So between us ... we are achieving something historic here, and that is going to conference with the Senate."

Dicks thanked Rogers and his staff for trying to restore regular order and said he supported their efforts this year to finish all 12 spending bills, though just six were completed.

"I think it's important for the American people to know that the Appropriations Committee here is working together on a bipartisan basis," Dicks said. "I hope that next year we can start a little earlier and get the budget resolution and move these bills. I would love to see us in the second session of this Congress get all 12 bills to the floor, where the members could offer their amendments."

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