House retirement sets off scramble for coveted chairmanship

House retirement sets off scramble for coveted chairmanship
© Greg Nash

The race to lead the House Appropriations Committee is already heating up following Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenTop House GOP appropriations staffer moves to lobbying shop Individuals with significant disabilities need hope and action Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch MORE’s (R-N.J.) retirement announcement on Monday. 

Reps. Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtDems accused of MeToo hypocrisy in Virginia Granger to serve as ranking member of House Appropriations Committee Earmarks look to be making a comeback MORE (R-Ala.) and Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerSenate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week How the border deal came together MORE (R-Texas), two of the most senior members on the spending panel, both threw their hats into the ring for the gavel after Frelinghuysen said he would not seek reelection. Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeDon’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall GOP dismisses polls showing losing battle on shutdown Bottom Line MORE (R-Okla.), another long-time appropriator, followed suit shortly after.

“Today, I am announcing that I’m running to be chairwoman of the @HouseAppropsGOP,” Granger wrote on Twitter. “This is a very challenging time for our country, and Chairman Frelinghuysen will leave tough shoes to fill. I will work hard to earn the support of my colleagues, and I look forward to a spirited race.” 

Granger currently chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and previously served as vice chair of the House Republican Conference from 2007 to 2009. Putting Granger in charge of the full committee would increase the GOP's female representation atop House committees, where only two Republican women now serve as chairs. 

Aderholt, meanwhile, chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture and is the most senior appropriator on the panel behind Frelinghuysen and Rep. Hal RogersHarold (Hal) Dallas RogersMomentum for earmarks grows with Dem majority On The Money: GOP shrugs off Trump shutdown threat | Trump warns Japan ties could sour over trade | US businesses add 163k workers in August | House GOP huddles on 'tax cut 2.0' GOP shrugs off Trump shutdown threat MORE (R-Texas), a former chairman.

“It is too soon to talk about changes and reforms to the appropriations process, but there is no doubt that major changes need to be made,” Aderholt said in a statement. “If allowed by my colleagues to serve as the next chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I look forward to addressing these challenges.”

Cole, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on labor and health and human services, also intends to run for the chairmanship, his spokeswoman said Monday. 

The timing of Frelinghuysen’s departure is unusual in that he still has four more years left in his term as Appropriations chairman — and members are usually hesitant to relinquish the position. But Frelinghuysen was facing a tough reelection race this fall, with his New Jersey district seen as a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats.

The Appropriations chairmanship is not as powerful as it once was, in part due to the GOP’s ban on earmarks, but it still gives a lawmaker the ability to direct billions of dollars in government spending. 

While Granger and Aderholt, who both came to Congress in 1997, are early front-runners for the job, it’s possible other candidates will emerge as well.

Another southern Republican, Rep. Tom GravesJohn (Tom) Thomas GravesHouse passes border deal, setting up Trump to declare emergency Lawmakers introduce bill to fund government, prevent shutdown The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Next 24 hours critical for stalled funding talks MORE (Ga.), has been receiving praise from conservatives in recent months and could make a play for the gavel.

Last year, Graves tried to rally his GOP colleagues to pass a massive fiscal 2018 spending package before the long August congressional recess so Republicans wouldn't get jammed with an unpopular bill right before government funding expired.

Graves "has won over a lot of conservatives in the past year. He's just building a lot of goodwill," said one GOP aide who is closely tracking the race to replace Frelinghuysen. "And he's the right guy to carry the anti-Senate/[Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell (R-Ky.) message." 

“Today is the chairman’s day, and I’ll make a decision on where I can best serve later on,” Graves said in a statement.

Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartVenezuela puts spotlight on Rubio The Hill's Morning Report — Trump complicates border wall negotiations Immigration divide widens with latest GOP proposal MORE (R-Fla.), chairman of the Appropriations transportation subcommittee, will not vie for the full gavel, according to a source close to him. 

But another Appropriations subcommittee chairman, Rep. Mike SimpsonMIchael (Mike) Keith SimpsonPress: Democrats dare to think big Dem chairwoman seeks watchdog probe of Park Service’s shutdown operations House votes on 10th bill to reopen government MORE (R-Idaho), did not rule out a bid on Monday.

“I have been asked many times if I would be interested in a larger role on the committee someday. My response has always been and remains that it is something I will seriously consider,” Simpson, chairman of the energy and water development subcommittee, said in a statement. “For now, we should be grateful for the years of service that Rodney and his family have given his district and our country. He will be missed very much.”

The House Steering Committee, which is stacked with allies of Republican leadership, will meet after the November elections to determine committee slots.

— Scott Wong contributed