Lowey, Kaptur fight for Democrats' top spending panel slot heats up

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) is widely seen in the House Democratic caucus as likely to win her quest to become the ranking member of the powerful Appropriations Committee — but Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) is nowhere near giving up the prize.

ADVERTISEMENT
“There’s nobody that’s more tenacious around this place,” says an aide about Kaptur. 

Kaptur has more seniority on the panel, but Lowey is viewed as the choice of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Lowey’s office sees a late Kaptur push and is “redoubling” its own efforts to prevent an upset.

“We’re really pleased where things stand right now but not taking anything for granted,” said Matt Dennis, a Lowey spokesman. 

Dennis said that Lowey is prepared for the Steering Committee vote on the position to be close enough that the ultimate decision is kicked to the entire caucus under Democratic rules.

A key factor in the race is abortion.

Lowey’s camp argues she is more reliable in preventing anti-abortion rights legislation from being inserted into appropriations bills. Kaptur’s camp notes she has opposed riders defunding Planned Parenthood.

Lowey, her office acknowledges, is emphasizing her pro-abortion rights positions. According to NARAL, Lowey has a 100 percent ranking on abortion-related issues, while Kaptur is “mixed-choice” at 70 percent.

Kaptur supporters say their candidate is a better speaker, note she is younger, and argue she has spent years cultivating relationships with Republicans like committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).

Lowey is also stressing that she is a “team player” who led the 2002 House Democratic congressional campaign, while at the same time forging her own relationships across the aisle.

To this, Kaptur counters that she attended 56 fundraisers this campaign season.

The decision will come when Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess, soon after Nov. 29 leadership elections.

The Appropriations panel is one of the most bipartisan in Congress, making the ranking member slot unusually powerful.

The New York congresswoman announced her bid for the post in March when Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) declared he was retiring.

Lowey went full force for the job while Kaptur was forced into a tough primary battle with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) this year.

Although Kaptur kept her seat and defeated Kucinich, Kaptur was distracted, sources said.

Kaptur’s office said a full, sophisticated whip team is now going full force. The effort will be capped off with a presentation to the party steering committee that her office expects will dazzle.

Kaptur's campaign is complicated by the fact she ran against Pelosi to be minority leader in 2002. She also ran against Pelosi favorite Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) for vice conference chairman in 2008.

In 2010, Kaptur was quoted as questioning whether Pelosi’s term as party leader should be extended in light of the trouncing the Democrats took at the polls.

“That is part of it,” one member said of the challenges Kaptur is facing.