Cumberland Times-News

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March 16, 2013

Md.’s Mikulski, Ky.’s Rogers practice art of compromise

Both working together to ease automatic spending cuts

WASHINGTON — She’s an outspoken feminist and former social worker. He’s a cigar-smoking Kentucky lawyer.

But Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Republican Rep. Harold Rogers have big things in common as they steer the House and Senate Appropriations committees toward a spending plan for the rest of the year that eases the bite of $85 billion in automatic spending cuts.

Their tiny domain is the only place in a bitterly divided Congress where bipartisan negotiation thrives, however uncomfortably.

As their bill winds toward Senate and House approval, the veteran lawmakers who have a combined 68 years of service on Capitol Hill are hoping their exercise is instructive to the dozens of colleagues, many elected since 2010, who frown on compromise.

“If they succeed, perhaps in their own way they will have demonstrated to others in this Congress that this is about conciliation, it’s about setting priorities, it’s about cutting waste,” said Jim Dyer, a longtime appropriations aide who’s now a lobbyist. “It’s about doing your job as opposed to getting yourself so wrapped around the ideological axle that you can’t accomplish anything.”

Mikulski and Rogers are the pain managers of the nation’s fiscal difficulties, the two individuals most responsible for averting a government shutdown March 27 and taking some of the edge off the automatic spending cuts.

They can’t do anything, though, without the agreement of Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate committee, and New York Rep. Nita Lowy, the senior Democrat on the House committee.

The headache of the cuts is here to stay for at least six months, until the end of the current budget year Sept. 30. View it has the hangover from Congress’s inability to bully itself into a deficit-cutting deal that might require voters to give up some of their tax cuts or government benefits.

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