Player of the Week: Rep. Hal Rogers

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the new Appropriations Committee chairman, has a big week ahead.

Rogers and House Republican leaders must find $32 billion to cut from government spending levels. While some conservatives are pushing for larger cuts, trimming $32 billion is no easy task. 

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Without a doubt, the mood in Washington is focused on attacking the deficit and reducing the size of government. 

President Obama has called for a salary freeze for federal workers and recently embraced a five-year spending freeze. William Daley, Obama’s chief of staff, subsequently said the White House is willing to go further than that.

Yet it is safe to assume that the Obama administration and congressional Republicans will not agree on how much to cut.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidCortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP Nevada congressman admits to affair after relationship divulged on podcast Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil MORE (D-Nev.) last week called the $32 billion figure “draconian” and “unworkable.” 

For now, the GOP’s cost-cutting effort is merely a number. Later this week, Rogers will unveil the specific cuts to an array of government programs. That’s when it will get difficult for the GOP, because Democrats are ready to pounce. 

Rogers beat Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) to win the gavel of the Appropriations panel following the midterm elections. But the post is very different than it was last year, when Democrats had control of the House, and very different from when Republicans ran the lower chamber from 1995 through 2006.

The goal for Rogers is to cut now, cut later and keep on cutting throughout the 112th Congress. He used to be a big fan of earmarks, like his Kentucky colleague, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE (R). But amid the Tea Party’s rise, both Rogers and McConnell have embraced an earmark moratorium.

Rogers is not a self-promoter. This week, though, he has the spotlight. His rollout of the spending plan and the public’s reaction to it will be telling indicators of the budget battles that loom this year.