Rep. Grijalva poised for top committee slot as Democrat declines

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) will not seek the ranking member spot on the House Natural Resources Committee in the next Congress, her office said Wednesday.

ADVERTISEMENT

The move clears the way for Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the liberal firebrand who's vying to become the top Democrat on the panel after staging an unsuccessful run for that seat against Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) last year.

Grijalva, the chairman of the Congressional Progressive Committee, is the sixth-ranking member of the panel, but the more senior members are either retiring or seeking top spots on other committees.

DeFazio, for instance, is the favorite to take over the ranking member spot on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee following last week's defeat of Rep. Nick RahallNick Joe RahallWe shouldn't allow politics to impede disaster relief Break the cycle of partisanship with infant, child health care programs Clinton mulls role in 2018 midterms MORE (D-W.Va.).

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who is also senior to Grijalva on Natural Resources, is battling Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) for ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, a seat being vacated by the retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

And Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) is retiring.

That left Napolitano, who had been weighing a bid for Natural Resources — until Wednesday, when she "spoke with Congressman Grijalva and endorsed him for Ranking Member," her office said.

The committee’s jurisdiction over the Interior Department has made Natural Resources a platform for intense partisan clashes over oil-and-gas and mining policy.
 
Republicans have used the panel to slam what they call undue federal restrictions on development offshore and on vast swaths of public lands that Interior oversees in western states.

In a letter to fellow Democrats, Grijalva pitched himself as "a life-long proponent of responsible environmental stewardship, and … someone with the experience needed to effectively check threats to vital protections that are sure to come under the Republican-led Congress and Senate.”

“We all have a stake in safeguarding natural treasures, as well as our air, land and water," he wrote.

The Democrats' leadership and committee elections are expected to occur next week.