WASHINGTON – In the end, it wasn’t even close. After a year of behind-the-scenes campaigning by a trio of candidates, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, of Connecticut, has been chosen to lead the House Appropriations Committee in the 117th Congress.
Both Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Florida, and Marcy Kaptur, of Ohio, also sought the role, but in the end neither garnered the support they needed.
The final vote, in which DeLauro faced only Wasserman Schultz, saw the close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and longtime friend of outgoing Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey, win 148-79.
Kaptur, who dropped out of the race, had endorsed DeLauro right before the Democratic Caucus vote.
Once the 117th Congress convenes, DeLauro’s first job, no doubt, will be marshalling a significant coronavirus relief bill through her committee, regardless of whether a relief bill makes it through the current lame duck Congress.
DeLauro will also be pressed early to fulfill a promise to left-leaning Democrats that she’ll act to do away with the Hyde amendment, added to an appropriations bill 43 years ago, that prevents the use of federal funds for abortions, with some limited exceptions.
Those who want the provision removed argue that it unfairly burdens low-income women who are more likely to rely on federal assistance for health care.
In addition to policy changes, DeLauro will take over the appropriations panel just as the spending caps imposed by the 2011 deficit-reduction law end.
What that means is that for the first time in a decade, Appropriations and other budget-related committees will set the total discretionary spending level for the upcoming fiscal year themselves.
Once the committees agree to a number, it’ll be up to DeLauro to divide it among the 12 subcommittees that draft portions of the appropriation resolution to come up with spending plans for everything from defense and education to funding the federal government.
The million dollar question around all this is whether she’ll be able to get any by-in from Republicans in the House or Senate or whether the budget process and DeLauro’s position on issues like federal funding for abortions become high-profile campaign issues in 2022.
Shortly after DeLauro was elected the next Appropriations chair, the retiring chairwoman, Rep. Nita Lowey, of New York, said her successor “has been a legislative partner of mine for three decades.
“She has been a tireless advocate for the most vulnerable people in our nation and has always been an inspiration to me. As the chair of the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee this Congress, she has been integral to our committee’s success in delivering for the people,” Lowey said.
“More importantly, Rosa has been one of my closest friends for my entire tenure in Congress. I treasure the memories we have made together, particularly our work with Speaker Pelosi to elevate issues of special importance to women and families that earned us the sobriquet DeLoSi,” she said.
Lowey added: “As I prepare to leave Congress, I know that the Appropriations Committee and the purse strings it controls are in good hands with Rosa. I look forward to watching her fight for Democratic values and American priorities in the years to come.”
In related news, the House Democratic Caucus re-elected Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., of New Jersey, to be chairman of the House Energy Committee and Richard Neal, of Massachusetts, to be chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
“I am honored to be elected chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee once again by my Democratic colleagues,” Pallone said in a statement. “There is no better committee in Congress, and I am so fortunate to have their support in leading this committee in the 117th Congress.
“Our nation faces unprecedented challenges, and I stand ready to work with all of my colleagues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, provide critical assistance to struggling families, and rebuild our economy,” he said. “In the coming months, we will push an aggressive agenda to ensure the Biden Administration has all the resources it needs to crush this pandemic, make health care and prescription drugs more affordable, rebuild and modernize our nation’s infrastructure, combat climate change, and protect people’s privacy.
“We will also examine how to rebuild and restore critical functions of key agencies under the committee’s jurisdiction that were dismantled over the last four years by the outgoing Trump Administration,” Pallone added.
As for Neal, he said remaining chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is “the honor of my life.”
“I am immensely grateful to my colleagues for entrusting me with this responsibility,” he continued. “This past Congress, Ways and Means Democrats wasted no time with our majority. We passed legislation to lower prescription drug prices, increase Americans’ retirement savings, redesign the IRS, reduce the number of children requiring placement in foster homes, and provide expanded tax credits to low-wage workers and middle-class families. Our members led the way in improving and passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and conducted robust oversight of the Trump Administration at every turn.”
“Of our many achievements, I am most proud of the committee’s swift and innovative leadership through the COVID-19 health and economic crises,” Neal added. “Our significant contributions to Congress’s pandemic relief packages saved both lives and livelihoods. We’re not out of the woods yet, though. The American people need us now more than ever, and I look forward to the committee working closely with the Biden Administration not only to recover from this horrific virus and accompanying recession, but to build back even better.”
In a statement released after the votes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Our Caucus, the Congress and the nation have been blessed and strengthened by the strategic experience, bold vision and tireless service that these outstanding Members bring to the table.
“With their gavels, our brilliant chairs will harness their diversity of backgrounds and experiences to unify our Caucus as our House Majority, in partnership with the Democratic Biden-Harris Administration, continues to work together to deliver results For The People,” she said.
The statement was accompanied by a list of all the named chairs, including the first African-American chairs ever named to lead the Agriculture and Foreign Affairs committees.
Agriculture: David Scott of Georgia
Appropriations: Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut
Armed Services: Adam Smith of Washington
Budget: John Yarmuth of Kentucky
Education & Labor: Bobby Scott of Virginia
Energy & Commerce: Frank Pallone of New Jersey
Financial Services: Maxine Waters of California
Foreign Affairs: Gregory Meeks of New York
Homeland Security: Bennie Thompson of Mississippi
House Administration: Zoe Lofgren of California
Judiciary: Jerrold Nadler of New York
Natural Resources: Raúl Grijalva of Arizona
Oversight & Reform: Carolyn Maloney of New York
Rules: Jim McGovern of Massachusetts
Science, Space & Technology: Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas
Small Business: Nydia Velázquez of New York
Transportation & Infrastructure: Peter DeFazio of Oregon
Veterans’ Affairs: Mark Takano of California
Ways & Means: Richard Neal of Massachusetts