House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers says he likely will give up his gavel rather than seek a waiver when his third two-year term expires next year, leaving an opening for the chairmanship of the spending panel.
Should Rogers indeed opt against seeking another term as chairman, it could set off an intense race to replace him, assuming Republicans retain control of the House. The top possible GOP candidates: Rodney Frelinghuysen, Kay Granger and Robert B. Aderholt.
Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, was handed the top spot on the once-powerful panel in late 2010, shortly after Republicans captured control of the House. Unless he has a change of heart, there is no shortage of potential replacements, including several members with close ties to the cash-rich U.S. defense sector.
“At this point in time, not really,” Rogers said when asked on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program if he was considering lobbying leaders for an extension, during a taping this week.
Rogers replied “sure” when asked if he would be content running for a 19th term and returning to a role as an Appropriations subcommittee chairman in the 115th Congress.
Rogers' remarks are significant, since they appear to be the first time the lawmaker has tipped his hand about his future plans.
Notably, Rogers was the first Homeland Security cardinal, a spot currently held by Rep. John Carter, R-Texas. He also previously served as chairman of the wide-ranging Commerce-Justice-Science panel.
Jennifer Hing, a Rogers spokeswoman, said in an email that “no decisions have been made on his future committee plans.”
The Appropriations gavel isn’t what it used to be, with both chambers struggling to get their bills through the full House and Senate. And an earmark ban put in place around the same time Rogers became chairman of the full Appropriations Committee means the position’s favor-giving power is diminished.
In a 2011 interview with The New York Times, Rogers colorfully acknowledged the job he inherited was not what he expected after waiting nearly three decades for the position .
“I ran to be head chef, but I wound up taking charge of the latrines,” he said then.
In late 2010, Rogers beat out former Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, then the top Republican on the panel, and former Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia for the post.
Next in line are Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, Aderholt of Alabama and Granger of Texas. None has been forthcoming about their aspirations, but all are in positions to make a case for the gavel should they choose to do so.
Frelinghuysen is the current Defense subcommittee chairman, and from that post controls more than half of the roughly $1.1 trillion discretionary dollars appropriators hand out annually. He’s also well-liked by leadership and his GOP colleagues and hails from a politically safe district.
Granger is also a favorite of party leaders after chairing, at their request, a special working group last year on the border crisis. As a reward they granted her request for a waiver late last year to continue chairing the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.
In order to deflect claims from Democrats that the party is anti-woman, the GOP may feel pressured to secure a female committee chairwoman or ranking member in the 115th Congress with the retirement of Candice S. Miller of Michigan next year and Granger is well-placed in that respect. However, she has made no secret of her desire to eventually hold the Defense gavel.
Regardless, both Frelinghuysen and Granger would bring a deep well of defense sector campaign cash .
The duo ranks fourth and fifth, respectively, among all sitting members who received donations from arms manufacturers during the 2014 election cycle, according to data compiled by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. Aderholt, a defense subpanel member, does not rank in the top 20 of that list.
“I think Frelinghuysen will be the full committee chairman and Granger will become the Defense chair,” said one lobbyist familiar with the committee, speaking on background.
“Rodney is a team player and he does all the right things,” the lobbyist said. Asked if that means he is the superior fundraiser of the three, the lobbyist replied with a laugh: “Of course.”
To that end, the New Jersey Republican raised $1.34 million last cycle, compared with Granger’s $1.31 million and Aderholt’s $1.17 million.
Aderholt, meanwhile, has quietly cut his teeth in recent years as the chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee. He garnered significant publicity last year, though, for challenging first lady Michelle Obama on school nutrition issues. He’s also politically ambitious — he’s currently in his tenth term despite just turning 50 this week.
None of the three has publicly stated an interest in the chairmanship.
As for Rogers, the lobbyist expects the veteran lawmaker will “become a cardinal or a chairman emeritus-type role.”
Should Rogers step aside, he would join one other current longtime lawmaker in relinquishing a role among top Appropriations leadership. Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., is retiring at the 114th Congress’ end.
Other GOP members have criticized the GOP’s use of term limits for chairmen and ranking member spots. For instance, former Rep. David Camp of Michigan in said at a breakfast with reporters in February 2014 that the limits make “a significant difference between being ranking member and being the chairman, in terms of your ability to try and impact the agenda.”
And former Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., retired last year after his term was up as Armed Services chairman.
But Hing said her boss “is not considering retiring.”
The lobbyist said Rogers is not retiring. "He's definitely running again,” the lobbyist said. “He’s raising money to run again right now.”