House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., will lose one of his closest aides next month when his chief of staff, Michael Higdon, joins the lobbying world at Cornerstone Government Affairs.
Higdon, a member of Rogers’s staff for 11 years, will become a vice president at Cornerstone on Dec. 9. As a member of the firm’s budget and appropriations team, Higdon will help Cornerstone woo potential clients in Kentucky — while making it home in time to help care for his infant daughter.
“My sleepless nights on Appropriations are now sleepless nights with a baby,” he said.
Higdon acknowledged that “it has been tough sledding” for appropriators in recent years as arguments over the budget devolved into a 16-day government shutdown.
“But I don’t think the shutdown diminished Chairman Rogers’s role on the Appropriations Committee in any way,” he argued. “In fact, I think it’s elevating the recognition that [the panel] is the place where business can and should get done. It’s one of the few places where we’ve got to move appropriations bills, where you’ve got to pass agency budgets, even when we find ourselves in these protracted, intransigent moments. The Appropriations Committee couldn’t be more important, trying to untangle that.”
Higdon praised Rogers’s zeal for pruning the budget. One of the congressman’s most “prized possessions,” Higdon said, is a 2011 issue of National Journal magazine in which he is pictured on the cover brandishing a pair of scissors.
In a statement, Rogers hailed his former aide. “For over a decade, Michael has served in my inner circle as a trusted friend, erudite leader, and thoughtful adviser on a wide spectrum of political and policy issues before the Congress,” said the 17-term congressman.
Higdon was raised in Visalia, a small town in California’s San Joaquin Valley. His father coached the baseball team and cut the grass at the church the family attended. “I usually describe [the ethos] as “˜everybody pitches in,’ “ Higdon said.
His affinity for public policy manifested itself early on. When Higdon was in sixth grade, his favorite subject was current events. He was elected to student government in high school, and by the time he was an undergraduate at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, Higdon had already volunteered on a couple of state and federal campaigns.
Higdon moved to Washington the day after his college graduation and worked briefly as an aide to then-Rep. Ron Packard, R-Calif., a member of the Appropriations Committee, before joining the office of former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., and then Rogers’s staff in 2002. He became chief of staff in January 2011.
He still has a month to go on Capitol Hill, but Higdon already has some ideas about his strategy on K Street.
“If you want “¦ to achieve your policy objectives, you’ve got to [adopt] a multifaceted and asymmetric approach,” he said. “You build coalitions, you do PR when necessary, you do it all.”