Congress

Wasserman Schultz enters race for top Democrat on Appropriations

It’s now a three-way contest for Lowey’s replacement

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz will seek the top Democratic spot on the House Appropriations Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The race to become the next top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee widened into a three-way contest Thursday.

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz declared her intention to run for the job that will be left vacant when Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey of New York retires at the end of her current term. Lowey, 82, announced last month she would step down after 31 years in Congress.

Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Military Construction-VA Appropriations Subcommittee, will challenge two more senior appropriators for the top job: Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, the Energy-Water Subcommittee chairwoman, and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who heads the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee. At 53, Wasserman Schultz is the youngest of the three candidates, a fact she sought to use to her advantage in her announcement letter to Democratic colleagues.

“As both a strategic and knowledgeable Appropriator known for a strong work ethic, I can bring generational diversity to our Caucus’ committee leadership and usher in needed reforms to the process,” she wrote.

Kaptur, 73, has the most seniority on the committee among Democrats. But unlike in the Senate, seniority alone doesn’t always determine committee leadership posts in the House. And Kaptur was passed over for the top Democratic slot on Appropriations once before, in 2012, when she lost to the more junior Lowey.

The Democratic Caucus, which has moved further leftward since then, may also shy away from Kaptur because of her opposition to expanding abortion rights. She has also clashed at times with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has enjoyed a warmer relationship with Lowey.

[Lowey retirement sparks Democratic Appropriations scramble]

DeLauro, 76, already manages the largest nondefense spending bill and has played a leading role in combating the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

And since the contest won't take place until the new Congress convenes in January 2021, other Democrats could enter the race too, including North Carolina Rep. David E. Price, who chairs the Transportation-HUD Subcommittee.

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