The Democratic Caucus on Thursday defeated a proposal that would have prohibited Rep. Norm Dicks (Wash.) from simultaneously holding the ranking membership on the Appropriations Committee and its Defense subcommittee.
By a vote of 72 to 94, the Caucus defeated the proposal, which was offered by Rep. Mel Watt (N.C.).
Two Democratic lawmakers said debate on the resolution grew testy at times. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) was among those who spoke against it, according to sources who attended the closed-door meeting.
“I just think we need to have the discussion,” Watt said earlier this week. “It’s not personal.”
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), an appropriator who could be in line for a subcommittee ranking post next year, said he supported the resolution “to disperse leadership and allow more voices to emerge in the Democratic Caucus.”
Dicks, who is chairman of the Defense subcommittee, was named the ranking member on the full committee last week. He told Roll Call in an interview that he would like to serve as the top Democrat on the committee and subcommittee in the 112th Congress.
“The House Appropriations Committee has always had subcommittee authority,” Dicks said, noting that he has been on the Defense subcommittee since 1979. “So it isn’t like I would be the ranking member and then I’m taking a subcommittee from somebody else. This is the subcommittee I’ve been on throughout my entire career.”
The current Appropriations Chairman — retiring Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) — also leads the Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Obey had weighed in against Watt’s resolution.
In the Senate, Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) is chairman of the full Appropriations panel as well as the Defense subcommittee.
Anna Palmer contributed to this report.