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Eye on gavel, Wasserman Schultz proposes panel on racial inequality in spending

Eye on gavel, Wasserman Schultz proposes panel on racial inequality in spending
© Greg Nash

Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzDeSantis threatens to divert vaccines from communities criticizing distribution Lobbying world Democrats urge Biden FDA to drop in-person rule for abortion pill MORE, who is in the running to be the next House Appropriations Committee chair, called on Monday for a new panel to oversee how government spending affects historically marginalized communities.

"The Appropriations Committee must play a leading role in addressing federal budget inequities," she wrote in a Dear Colleague letter Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill.

"That is why I am proposing the creation of a new House Appropriations Committee Advisory Panel on Equity and Justice. This panel would help the Committee refocus federal spending decisions on the issues and demands of equity, justice, and diversity," she added. 

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Wasserman Schultz is among several high profile appropriators vying for the Appropriations gavel, which current Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency This week: Trump's grip on Hill allies faces test Trump signs .3T relief, spending package MORE (D-N.Y.) will give up when she retires at the end of the year.

A spokesperson for Lowey said she was "proud of how this year’s appropriations bills reflect the House Democratic Caucus’ commitment to racial justice," and reiterated a commitment to let the next Congress select the next chair.

But the proposal did get an endorsement from a powerful figure, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.)

"This plan presents an opportunity to begin to repair faults that have perpetuated disparities within this country for far too long,” Clyburn said of the proposal.

Specifically, he praised her inclusion of the 10-20-30 formula Clyburn has floated for addressing issues of inequality. That plan calls for at least 10 percent of rural development investments to go toward counties where 20 percent or more of the population has lived in poverty for 30 years.

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Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, faces tough competition for the gavel.

Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa DeLauroHouse Democratic leaders back Shalanda Young for OMB after Tanden withdrawal Pro-Choice Caucus asks Biden to remove abortion fund restrictions from 2022 budget Key Democrat unveils plan to restore limited earmarks MORE (D-Conn.) chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which is by far the largest of the 12 annual spending bills, save Defense. She is close with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump White House associate tied to Proud Boys before riot via cell phone data Greene sounds off on GOP after Hill story 'Bloody Sunday' to be commemorated for first time without John Lewis MORE (D-Calif.), and is one of the most senior members of the committee.

“Chairwoman DeLauro is a fighter for racial and economic justice," a DeLauro spokesperson said, pointing to the Labor bill. 

"She’s committed to expanding upon that critical work,” they added.

Rep. Marcy KapturMarcia (Marcy) Carolyn KapturCreate a bulwark against Chinese economic coercion: Advance open RAN in Europe The Memo: Ohio Dem says many in party 'can't understand' working-class concerns Tim Ryan planning to declare run for Ohio Senate seat by March: NYT MORE (D-Ohio), who heads up the energy and water subcommittee, is the most senior member of the Democratic appropriators, and is also lobbying for the job.

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Wasserman Schultz's proposal comes amid widespread social unrest focusing on racism and police brutality, which has led to calls for stronger investments in communities of color, specifically in terms of redirecting police funding toward community programs.

African Americans are among the most important constituencies in the Democratic Party, and played a key role in helping former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenLawmakers, activists remember civil rights icons to mark 'Bloody Sunday' Fauci predicts high schoolers will receive coronavirus vaccinations this fall Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump MORE win the Democratic primary this year. 

The subject of race continued to be central to the presidential campaign, with Biden under pressure to select a woman of color as his running mate. He already vowed to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court.

But beyond representation, much attention has been given to how budgets and spending priorities can leave communities of color behind. 

Wasserman Schultz's plan would empower the advisory panel, with members appointed by the committee chair, to review the enacted spending bills and report to the committee where adjustments could be made "in order to increase equity and justice."