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Since being named to the bicameral budget conference committee this fall, New York Democrat Nita M. Lowey has used her position on the 29-member panel to push the concerns of not only Democrats but appropriators from both sides of the aisle.
The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Lowey has consistently called on top budget negotiators to provide sequester relief and settle on top-line funding levels for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 as soon as possible, echoing the remarks of Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky. Their goal, Lowey says, is to bring the budget process toward some semblance of normalcy after years of partisan impasse.
Lowey has largely used her first year as the ranking member on the panel — a post she sought and won last December following the retirement of Norm Dicks of Washington — to fight for domestic programs, such as Head Start, the National Institutes of Health and basic scientific research, that are treasured by Democrats. Although she and Rogers have disagreed about funding levels for individual federal agencies, both are veterans of the appropriations world and hold the committee’s work on policymaking in high regard.
They also agree on one of the key factors impacting the budget negotiations: that the sequester level of $967 billion for discretionary spending level that will be implemented Jan. 15, barring a fiscal deal, is unworkable.
In her 13th term in the House, the Bronx-born Lowey has gained a reputation as a tough, partisan defender of traditional Democratic ideals who also works in a collegial manner with GOP members. That’s the classic profile of an appropriator, of course, and it’s what makes her an important emissary for that panel on a conference committee seeking to get beyond years of budget strife.
Lowey discussed her position as both a top appropriator and budget conferee in a recent interview with CQ Roll Call.
Q. Recent reports about the potential for a budget agreement have spanned the gamut from pessimistic to fairly upbeat. What are you anticipating at this point?
A. Because a budget agreement is so essential, especially to the appropriators who are working very, very hard to plan for 2014, I would like to be cautiously optimistic that we can still get a budget deal. ... I am always cautiously optimistic that every legislator takes their work seriously, as I do, and understands the mandate and the importance of putting a budget together so we can have a real appropriations process, which Chairman Rogers and I as the ranking member have been advocating for.