Continued from page 1

It wasn’t until a 16-day partial government shutdown and a crisis over a potential default on government obligations that House GOP leaders sued for peace.

The result was a December budget agreement that, 2 1/2 months into the fiscal year, awarded the appropriators enough money to negotiate the bipartisan bill that Congress sent President Barack Obama on Thursday.

Still, it was better than the previous year. Budgets for the Pentagon and a handful of other agencies were agreed upon almost halfway into the fiscal year and most other agencies kept at 2012 levels, only to be slammed by across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.

Looking ahead, Rogers and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee, promise a return to the practice in which appropriators are handed a pot of money to divide among the 12 bills.

The lawmakers spend May, June and July voting bills out of committee and then debating, amending and passing them on the House and Senate floors.

“There is hope for a more regular process next year,” Rogers said last week. He cited the December budget deal that has given appropriators their “top line” for the 2015 round of bills. “We will redouble our efforts to get back to what we all want, regular order, next year.”

The nuts-and-bolts world of the appropriators attracts relatively little attention from the mainstream media, but their actions have a real impact on people in ways they probably don’t notice.

It was an appropriation “rider” by then-Rep. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that banned smoking on airplanes.

Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., who died last fall, used his clout over the Pentagon’s budget to create a registry for bone marrow donors to make it easier for people with lymphoma and leukemia to get life-saving transplants.

It was debate in the Senate Appropriations Committee five years ago that spelled the end of Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison where suspected terrorists are held.

Drone aircraft got their start from a 1990s-era earmark that the Pentagon didn’t want.

The once all-powerful House and Senate Appropriations Committees, stripped by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, of their ability to lace the 12 spending bills with billions of dollars for home-state pet projects known as earmarks, have seen their luster fade.

Boehner long has viewed the clubby world of the appropriators with disdain.

One of his first moves when taking over as speaker three years ago was to banish the committee from its ornate office, steps from the floor and with a balcony overlooking the Capitol’s West Front that was a favorite spot for Thursday afternoon happy hours, to inferior digs on the third floor. He sided with tea party forces to shortchange the committee this spring.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has a long history on the Appropriations Committee but also has dissed it in recent years, denying it the floor time needed to complete its bills.

Story Continues →