DeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief

DeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief
© Greg Nash

The jockeying to replace Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyMixed feelings on war power limits: Lawmakers and vet candidates US officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  House revives agenda after impeachment storm MORE (D-N.Y.) atop the House Appropriations Committee has already begun. 

Lowey, the first woman to chair the powerful panel in the nation’s history, stunned Washington on Thursday in announcing that she’ll retire at the end of this Congress, after just one term with the gavel. 

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Rep. Marcy KapturMarcia (Marcy) Carolyn KapturAppropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases MORE (D-Ohio), the longest-serving female House member in the nation’s history, is next in line and almost certainly eyeing the post. But Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroSome kids will spend Christmas in border cages On The Money: House approves Trump USMCA deal in bipartisan vote | Senate sends .4T spending bill to Trump's desk | Why budget watchdogs are howling over the spending deal House approves Trump's USMCA trade deal amid shadow of impeachment MORE (D-Conn.), another senior member of the panel and a close ally of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views on misinformation Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (D-Calif.), quickly threw her name in the ring just hours after Lowey’s announcement. 

“Nita’s legacy will be lasting on the Congress — and she is not done yet. I look forward to working with her through the end of her term, and I will be running for Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the next Congress,” DeLauro, currently the fifth-ranking Democrat on the panel, said in a statement. 

The challenge sets the stage for a fierce fight next year for control of one of the most powerful committees on Capitol Hill. And others are signaling they may enter the running, as well. 

Rep. David PriceDavid Eugene PriceDemocrats likely to gain seats under new North Carolina maps North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats Trump officials say aid to Puerto Rico was knowingly stalled after Hurricane Maria MORE (D-N.C.), the sixth-ranking Democrat on the panel, did not rule it out on Thursday.

“When the time comes, I look forward to talking with colleagues about Appropriations Committee leadership, both of the full committee and of key subcommittees, as we fill major gaps that Chairwoman Nita Lowey’s retirement will leave,” Price said in a statement to The Hill.

Other senior Democrats on the committee, including Reps. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) and Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardLA Mayor Eric Garcetti endorses Biden Even in a time of impeachment, health care is on the agenda ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks MORE (D-Calif.), are already saying they have no interest in Lowey’s seat. Roybal-Allard's office said the congresswoman is endorsing DeLauro to be the next chair.

Visclosky, who is next in line in seniority behind Kaptur, said he has “no intention” of running to be chairman of the full committee. He controls the gavel of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which controls hundreds of billions of dollars for Pentagon programs.

Whether more lawmakers will jump into the contest is unclear. As of Thursday afternoon, a number of other top committee Democrats — including Reps. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules House revives agenda after impeachment storm Steyer calls for cuts to defense spending MORE (Calif.), Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzUS officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  Appropriators fume over reports of Trump plan to reprogram .2 billion for wall American Cancer Society says Trump doesn't get credit for drop in cancer deaths MORE (Fla.) and Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumLet's prevent irreparable harm to an irreplaceable wilderness area Democrats secure fast-track to the floor for Canada-Mexico trade deal House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump MORE (Minn.) — had not weighed in.

Kaptur issued a statement Thursday evening stressing the importance of wrapping up the committee's near-term work while Lowey is still at the helm. But when the time comes, she said she'll seek the gavel.

"Though it is far too early for the Democratic Caucus to begin considering successors to that position, I am interested in placing my name for consideration as the committee member with the most experience and seniority when the time is appropriate," she said.

Kaptur, who was first elected in 1982, is no stranger to challenges to her ascension on the Appropriations Committee. Although Democrats typically adhere to a seniority system when deciding committee heads, Lowey defeated the more senior Kaptur to win the ranking member position on the panel in 2012, following the retirement of former Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.).

Kaptur, at the time, chalked up the loss to the lopsided power dynamics in the Democratic Caucus between the heavily represented coasts and the lesser represented heartland. That regional disparity was a major factor in Pelosi’s leadership shakeup following the 2016 cycle, and Democrats since then have sought to iron out the regional disparities in their ranks.

How those dynamics might influence a Kaptur-DeLauro race remain to be seen. Several Democratic lawmakers and top aides said DeLauro would be a strong contender, if not the front-runner, to replace Lowey.

DeLauro also has a built-in advantage in the race: She leads the Democratic Steering Committee, the very panel which recommends to the full caucus which lawmakers should receive committee gavels.

“DeLauro would have an upper hand, despite seniority,” said one House Democratic lawmaker watching the evolving race.

“I think she’s the front-runner,” added a top aide to a Democratic appropriator.

—Updated at 5:58 p.m.