As Congress veered toward a government shutdown last week, Jim Kulikowski was at the center of efforts to keep that from happening.

With appropriations bills now virtually the only legislation Congress seems capable of passing, they have become vehicles for substantive legislation. That has only increased the burden upon the House Appropriations Committee to keep the government running, said Kulikowski, 59, deputy staff director and chief counsel of the committee.

“Our goal is to always keep the government going and prevent a shutdown, ” he said, “ and we’re doing everything we can to try and get there.”

The Republican-controlled House has passed a continuing appropriations resolution that also defunds the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democrats are working to amend the bill and send it back to the House.

Working in one of the most powerful committees in the House, Kulikowski manages the appropriations process. He works to keep the committee — chaired by Representative Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) — in line with House rules while keeping the House leadership happy.

“We are involved in all the major issues,” Kulikowski said, especially since appropriations inherently touches on defense, transportation and just about any policy subject. Kulikowski faces “100 challenges a day figuring out all the issues thrown at you at 100 miles per hour.”

The task seems daunting. “The number of hurdles to get the process done seems to keep increasing,” said Kulikowski, a 20-year veteran of the committee. “And having to deal with policy issues…requires more interaction with all the players.”

He added: “It’s now more and more a collaborative process and requires a lot more diligence in figuring out what the steps are and how to move forward.”

What Kulikowski enjoys most about his work is following legislation through the entire process. “The most rewarding thing is getting every appropriations bill signed into law,” he said. That, he said, “is the ultimate victory.”

Kulikowski’s philosophy is one of balance. “The things we do make a difference in terms of both getting resources to people who need them and dealing with the inefficiencies in government,” he said. — Alex Zank