The Kentucky Republican targeted on house exploration and the battle in opposition to opioids as chairman of Home spending subcommittee

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-K.Y., right, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., are seen outside a House Republican Steering Committee meeting in January. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ok.Y., proper, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., are seen outdoors a Home Republican Steering Committee assembly in January. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Name)

Posted March 17, 2023 at 5:00am

President Joe Biden kicked off the fiscal 2024 appropriations course of final week with a price range request that renewed a proposal to remove funding for the development of a brand new federal jail in japanese Kentucky.

However that challenge is within the district of Republican Rep. Harold Rogers, a longtime influential appropriator who’s now chairman of the Commerce-Justice-Science panel, which oversees funding ranges for the Justice Division.

Whereas Rogers has a observe document of backing funding for house exploration and the battle in opposition to opioids, the onetime chairman of the complete Home Appropriations Committee additionally has been known as the “Prince of Pork” for earmark spending that goes to his house state.

His spot now offers him nice sway over the title that had $84.2 billion in fiscal 2023 and consists of funding for the Commerce and Justice departments in addition to NASA and the Nationwide Science Basis, at a time when fellow Republicans want to lower authorities spending.

“When he was chairman, he had a favourite saying every time we’d collect from time to time to speak about appropriation payments that we had been marking up,” mentioned Rep. Steve Womack, an Arkansas Republican on the Appropriations Committee. “And that’s: ‘Look, I need you guys, every of you individually, to seek the advice of your conscience, after which vote sure.’”

Rogers has been defending the Kentucky jail challenge funding since at the very least 2017, when he informed the lawyer basic at a listening to that Congress determined to fund the challenge, “and we count on it to be carried out.”

The latest Biden price range proposal requires the canceling of $934.9 million in funding for brand spanking new building initiatives beneath the Bureau of Prisons, which incorporates funding for the japanese Kentucky challenge, in line with the Justice Division.

Opioids focus

Rogers, in an interview earlier this yr with CQ Roll Name, pointed to the nation’s struggles with fentanyl and mentioned he’ll be paying shut consideration to Justice Division funding in terms of combating medicine.

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Greater than 20 years in the past, Rogers outlined the burgeoning indicators of a disaster throughout a subcommittee listening to. Individuals had been overdosing on oxycodone, he mentioned, and japanese Kentucky was dealing with an epidemic of OxyContin misuse.

“This substance is working rampant via the small rural communities of Appalachia, wreaking havoc on the adolescent inhabitants,” Rogers mentioned, in line with a transcript of the 2001 listening to. “In my 20 years of service on this spot and 11 years earlier than that as a DA in Kentucky, I’ve by no means seen the devastating impact of 1 substance on individuals, notably younger individuals.”

Lots of people didn’t understand the urgency of Rogers’ warnings years in the past, mentioned Nancy Hale, president and CEO of Operation UNITE, a nonprofit that works on drug points and serves elements of Kentucky.

“Individuals have referred to him typically because the Paul Revere of the opioid disaster, the opioid epidemic,” Hale mentioned. “And he was saying, ‘Look, people, we’ve received an issue. Oxycontin shouldn’t be what we had been informed it was going to be.’”

In 2003, Rogers launched Operation UNITE in response to articles in a neighborhood newspaper, which detailed the impact of the opioid disaster on Kentucky communities.

The nonprofit was additionally behind the creation of The Rx and Illicit Drug Summit, which these days attracts officers from throughout the nation and has featured high-profile audio system, together with former President Donald Trump.

Womack mentioned a whole lot of Rogers’ vitality on the problem is pushed by the profound influence unlawful medicine have had on his district in Kentucky.

“So from a Commerce-Justice-Science standpoint, you may count on — simply as he did with Labor, Well being, and Human Companies, as he did as an total chairman — that’s going to be an enormous focus of his for positive,” Womack mentioned.

NASA booster

Rogers additionally brings to the subcommittee a long-standing curiosity in outer house.

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Final month, Rogers met with NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson, the previous U.S. senator from Florida, in certainly one of his first conferences as head of the subcommittee, in line with a social media submit.

Rogers invited Nelson “to go to his house district the place certainly one of NASA’s Deep Area Community affiliate satellites is positioned at Morehead State College in Kentucky,” the submit mentioned.

At a listening to in 2017, Rogers mentioned he’s been a “house nut” since he was a young person and pointed to the importance of the Soviet Union launching Sputnik.

“I stop a job in a radio station in North Carolina and enrolled in physics on the College of Kentucky, aiming for Cape Canaveral,” Rogers mentioned on the listening to, including that he “received uninterested in the maths” and “switched off to one thing else.”

“NASA is greater than a space-launching company. NASA is an inspiration maker, a dream realizer,” he mentioned on the 2017 listening to. “The house race with the Soviets and the race to the moon energized, impressed, excited the world, however particularly right here at house.”

Potential cuts

Rogers is heading the subcommittee as some Home Republicans push to chop spending and uncertainty persists over how Washington will elevate the debt restrict.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy has mentioned he desires to lift the debt ceiling in a “accountable” method however “not proceed this runaway spending.”

Rogers’ fellow lawmakers say he will likely be nicely served by his many years of expertise, which have now made him the dean of the Home.

“I’m positive no person will likely be shedding any sleep at night time about how that committee is run with the dean of the Home working it,” Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei mentioned.

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Rogers mentioned efforts to chop spending will on the very least make it robust to place collectively and cross a invoice. However requested if there’s any areas within the CJS portion that ought to be lower, he mentioned lawmakers will “be trying to see what we have now to do.”