House retirement sets off scramble for coveted chairmanship
The race to lead the House Appropriations Committee is already heating up following Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen’s (R-N.J.) retirement announcement on Monday.
Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) and Kay Granger (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 Cole (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 Rogers (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 Graves (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-Balart (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 Simpson (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
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