Young's death prompts Appropriations leadership shuffle

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday announced a major reshuffling of its subcommittee leadership in the wake of last month's death of Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) who had chaired the powerful Appropriations Defense subcommittee. 

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Young will be replaced by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who will leave his post as the head of the energy and water subcommittee.  Frelinghuysen will be replaced by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who will no longer chair the Interior and Environment subcommittee, which oversees the Environmental Protection Agency and which has witnessed huge battles over attempts to defund EPA regulations.

Simpson's current job as the environment "cardinal" will be taken by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.).

There had been some speculation that Simpson would prefer to be at his current post given its role in Native American tribal spending and that Frelinghuysen, who does not hail from a large defense area, would not be interested in Young's old job. 

But Simpson highlighted the fact he will now oversee spending on nuclear energy cleanup and Idaho National Laboratory.

“The Idaho delegation has a strong history of involvement in federal issues related to energy development and water infrastructure, and in particular, nuclear energy," he said.  Simpson will remain as a member on the environment subcommittee, he said. 

In a separate move, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a strong ally of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), will take the reins of the smaller Legislative Branch subcommittee. That subpanel oversees the House's operating budget and is seen as a training ground for larger chairmanships down the road. The post opened up with the retirement of Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.).

“Being an Appropriations Cardinal is an incredibly important job with great responsibility. Year after year, these Subcommittee Chairs are called on to do the tough work of funding the federal government, rooting out waste, making hard decisions on where and how to best use taxpayer dollars, and being responsible and pragmatic leaders who get the job done. I have full confidence that these new Chairmen will meet these challenges — and more — as we face the difficult fiscal landscape ahead,” full committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said in a press statement.

The appeal of being a cardinal has faded somewhat in recent years as stopgap continuing resolutions have been used more often than full detailed appropriations bills and as earmarks have been banned.

Rogers has been pushing for a congressional budget deal by next week so that his committee could produce a full omnibus appropriations bill and have it enacted by Jan. 15, when another government shutdown looms. 

— Updated at 11:04 a.m.