Salazar named to House Appropriations Committee |

Salazar named to House Appropriations Committee

Announcement signals Congressman out of running for agriculture secretary

Mike Lawrence

— U.S. Rep. John Salazar has been appointed to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, which determines federal spending in the House of Representatives.

Salazar is a San Luis Valley Democrat who represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, including Routt and Moffat counties. His name had recently been floated for President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of agriculture, but this morning’s confirmation of the appointment is a strong signal that Salazar is no longer in the running for a Cabinet post.

The Congressman said as much in a morning conference call with the media.

“I haven’t been pushing for the ag secretary position,” Salazar said. “This appointment makes it very difficult for me to leave Congress and the district I love so much.”

Salazar acknowledged that taking a seat on the appropriations committee is a challenging prospect given what he estimated at a $1 trillion federal budget deficit. The committee will be forced to address the dichotomy of an economic recession and a president-elect who laid out ambitious goals during his campaign.

“We’re going to have to fight hard,” Salazar said. “We’re going to have to figure out how to implement what President Obama has talked about.”

Salazar said a key part of that implementation will be funding a stimulus package designed to “put America back to work.” He said congressional research shows that every $1 billion invested in infrastructure creates 47,500 new jobs.

Salazar stated long-term goals of paying back the federal treasury within five years and making America energy-independent within 10 years.

He also stressed that his appointment to the committee will give Colorado, and specifically the Western Slope, a much stronger voice for federal funding for needs such as transportation and energy projects.

“This is what we’re planning on doing making sure Colorado gets its fair share of federal dollars,” he said. “This will be a positive thing for the state of Colorado and the Western Slope, for those transportation projects that are on line but don’t have the money to move forward.”

Salazar will be the Rocky Mountain region’s only representative on the committee, a factor he credited House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for considering in his appointment. The seat is vacated by the move of Tom Udall, D-N.M., from the House to the Senate. The House Policy and Steering Committee voted Salazar into the seat.

Salazar said he has “been working to land this seat on appropriations for over six months.”

The Congressman also acknowledged that he likely will be the lowest-ranking member of the committee – but said he is committed to holding the seat as long as he can.

“I plan to be here as long as the people of the 3rd (Congressional District) will continue to have me,” Salazar said. “Often times rural America is forgotten, and this is a great opportunity for all of it.”

Salazar said he will need to balance his “blue-dog Democrat” status – given to fiscally conservative Democrats – with Colorado’s funding needs and Obama’s wide-ranging agenda.

The Congressman will work toward that balance, he said, by reducing government waste and budgeting by “pay-go,” or pay-as-you-go, rules – even if, Salazar said, that means allowing spending that is paid back within five years.

“Over the next four years we’re going to have to figure out a way to move America forward and have the economy rebound so we can actually get some money flowing back to the treasury,” he said.

Salazar will become the first Coloradan to serve on the House Appropriations Committee since former Congressman David Skaggs, who represented the state’s 2nd Congressional District from 1987-99.

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