Rep. Chaka Fattah challenged Dicks for the ranking member spot last year, even though he is far down the seniority list. The Pennsylvanian is again looking to move up. “Congressman Fattah has had an interest in serving in a leadership position on the Appropriations Committee, and at this time he is exploring all options,” spokeswoman Debra Anderson said.
But Fattah can’t necessarily count on support from fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who generally favor the seniority system. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who did not support Fattah’s first attempt to leapfrog others on the panel, reiterated Wednesday that “I support the seniority system.”
“Seniority is very important to the Democratic Caucus,” the Mississippi Democrat said. “I see no reason why, with the potential opening at Appropriations or any other committee, why the seniority rules should not stand.”
The same goes for Rep. José Serrano, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. He joined the committee in 1991, the same year as Lowey. But because she was added first by the Steering Committee, he is technically fourth in line for the top Democratic spot.
Asked whether he would seek the slot, the New York lawmaker said he would rather stick to the seniority system.
“There’s a pecking order. If that order doesn’t go for one reason or another, then of course,” he said. “It’s really too early to tell, although I support the seniority system strongly.”
Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, will rank seventh on the Appropriations panel after Dicks and retiring Rep. John Olver (Mass.) leave.
Asked who he thinks could be the next Democratic leader on the committee, Pastor said the biggest determination would be what leadership wants.
“I think there’s too many ifs right now,” he said. “It’s just a matter of where the leadership is going to be, if they’re going to give a nod to somebody or open it up.”
Leaders have been mum on the topic. One factor is the relationship between House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Kaptur, who have clashed previously, most notably over the health care bill in 2009.
In addition to serving as ranking member of the full committee, Dicks is ranking member of the Subcommittee on Defense. That leaves an opening in that prime spot. Rep. Peter Visclosky is next in line to succeed him and is right behind Kaptur on the full panel, although it’s unclear whether the Indiana Democrat is interested in the top spot.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.