DeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief

Greg Nash

The jockeying to replace Rep. Nita Lowey (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. 

{mosads}Rep. Marcy Kaptur (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 DeLauro (D-Conn.), another senior member of the panel and a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (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 Price (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-Allard (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 Lee (Calif.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and Betty McCollum (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.

Tags Barbara Lee Betty McCollum David Price Debbie Wasserman Schultz House Appropriations Committee Lucille Roybal-Allard Marcy Kaptur Nancy Pelosi Nita Lowey Rosa DeLauro
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