Texas Rep. Kay Granger will likely take over as the House Republicans’ lead appropriator in January after the GOP Steering Committee recommended her on Thursday.
The full House GOP Conference is expected to ratify the decision Friday. While it’s possible the conference could overrule the Steering panel recommendation, conference approval is typically a formality.
The closed-door decision ends months of speculation about who would take the helm following the retirement of Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, who announced in January that he would be leaving Congress at the end of this term — after just two years as top GOP appropriator.
Within days of his decision there was a five-way race between Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama; Energy-Water Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson of Idaho; Financial Services Subcommittee Chairman Tom Graves of Georgia; and Labor-HHS-Education Chairman Tom Cole, as well as Granger, who leads the Defense Subcommittee.
Simpson decided not to continue on after Republicans lost control of the House during the midterm elections and the race for chairman became one for ranking member.
Granger was first elected to Congress in 1996 and became a member of the Appropriations Committee in 1999. She became ranking member of the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee in 2009. When Republicans gained control of the House in 2011, she moved into the role of subcommittee chairwoman until 2017, when she became chairwoman of the Defense Subcommittee. Granger is second in seniority among the eligible candidates for the top GOP slot on the panel, behind Aderholt.
Once the 116th Congress convenes in January, Granger will become one of the “four corners” of the Appropriations Committee — tasked with working out partisan differences with New York Democratic Rep. Nita M. Lowey, expected to become the panel’s first chairwoman, making for a historic all-female duo at the helm of the powerful committee. Their counterparts across the Capitol will be Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and ranking Democrat Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont.
Lowey and Granger are no strangers to working together; they formed a mutual understanding during eight years as their parties’ respective negotiators on the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee. A House committee hasn’t had a chairwoman and a female ranking member at the same time since the Select Committee on the Beauty Shop was eliminated in 1977.
But before that happens, the Texas Republican will be in charge of a significant reorganization of subcommittee ranking members. Republicans are losing Commerce-Justice-Science Chairman John Culberson of Texas and Homeland Security Chairman Kevin Yoder of Kansas after both lost re-election bids. And Granger is unlikely to hold the role of both full committee and Defense Subcommittee ranking member, opening up one of the most coveted subcommittee assignments in Congress.
That will lead to a game of musical chairs in which GOP lawmakers currently chairing committees with smaller allocations or less prestigious titles compete for the more desirable ranking member assignments.
The reshuffling will also provide three Republican appropriators who do not currently have titles with a ranking member job. Based purely on seniority that would likely be Reps. Steve Womack of Arkansas, Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington. Womack, currently top Republican on the Budget Committee, would either need to step aside from that role or receive a waiver from the Standing Committee to hold both roles.
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