House GOP moves to shore up some at-risk members with Appropriations seats

Appointees include objectors to Biden's Electoral College certification

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., speaks during an event with House Republicans on the House steps on Sept. 15.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., speaks during an event with House Republicans on the House steps on Sept. 15. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 14, 2021 at 2:08pm

House Republican leaders appointed several potentially vulnerable members to the coveted Appropriations Committee — a prize they could use to boost their standing with voters back home.

The power to help allocate $1.4 trillion in annual discretionary spending could buoy the new members as they prepare for what will likely be tough reelection campaigns next year. And the appointments come as lawmakers face increased scrutiny over their handling of the Electoral College certification and President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

Three of the committee’s new GOP members voted to reject Arizona's and Pennsylvania’s presidential election results after a mob of Trump supporters overtook the Capitol building on Jan. 6. And one voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the insurrection.

Kay Granger of Texas, the top Republican on House Appropriations, said the new panel members will help the GOP “continue to fight for the American people, advance Republican priorities, and stand firm against far-reaching Democrat polices.”

Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., is the most moderate of the new cohort, having voted Wednesday to impeach Trump for his role in the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol that temporarily delayed the counting of Electoral College votes.

“President Trump was, without question, a driving force in the catastrophic events that took place on January 6 by encouraging masses of rioters to incite violence on elected officials, staff members, and our representative democracy as a whole,” Valadao said in a statement.

He said he wished Speaker Nancy Pelosi had conducted a “thorough investigation” before bringing the resolution to the floor for a vote, but added that Trump’s “rhetoric was un-American, abhorrent and absolutely an impeachable offense.”

Valadao previously served three terms in Congress before losing his reelection bid in 2018. He won back his seat in the state’s Southern Central Valley district with just 50.4 percent of the vote in November.

A dairy farmer who represents a predominantly agricultural region, Valadao is no stranger to breaking with his party on large issues. He was one of three GOP lawmakers to back a comprehensive immigration overhaul that Democrats put forward during the 113th Congress.

Republican Reps. Ben Cline of Virginia, Mike Garcia of California, and Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania are likely to be more conservative voices on the spending panel. All three voted to reject the Electoral College ballots from Arizona and Pennsylvania despite no evidence of widespread fraud or credible reason to believe that Trump won the election.

Reschenthaler and Cline are both entering their second terms after securing reelection with 64.7 percent of the vote in each of their districts.

Facing a backlash

Garcia, who's facing calls back home for his resignation after his Electoral College votes, represents the more moderate 25th Congressional District of California, which includes northern Los Angeles County.

He won in November with just 50.04 percent of the vote, a closer race in his rematch against California state assembly member Christy Smith. Garcia defeated Smith last May in a special election replace former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned following reports of an improper relationship with a staffer.

Fundraising by Cline, Garcia and Reschenthaler could be hurt if large corporations and small donors follow through on announced plans to end donations to lawmakers who voted against Biden's certification.

Cutting off donations to all members who voted the same way on certifying the election results would apply to many of the committee’s senior members, however, something appropriations stakeholders will need to weigh carefully.

That includes Labor-HHS-Education ranking member Tom Cole of Oklahoma; Commerce-Justice-Science ranking member Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama; Defense ranking member Ken Calvert of California; Homeland Security ranking member Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee; Military Construction-VA ranking member John Carter of Texas; State-Foreign Operations ranking member Harold Rogers of Kentucky and Transportation-HUD ranking member Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida.

Granger wasn't present at the Electoral College or impeachment votes due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. She did not wish to vote by proxy as House rules allow.

The other two new Republican panel members — Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas and Rep. Ashley Hinson of Iowa — voted to reject the Democrats’ impeachment resolution this week. They also voted to reject unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud during the Electoral College count.

Gonzales won Texas’ 23rd District, encompassing outer San Antonio, in a relatively close race with 50.6 percent of the vote. He’s likely to have strong views on immigration policy and border security given that his district includes more than 700 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Gonzales represents the same district as former Republican Rep. Will Hurd, who also held a seat on the spending panel. The district has flipped back and forth in recent presidential elections, narrowly backing Trump in 2020 after giving Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton the slim nod in 2016 and supporting GOP contender Mitt Romney four years earlier.

Hinson, a former TV news anchor and state legislator, won Iowa’s Cedar Rapids district with 51.3 percent of the vote, flipping back a seat Democrats had taken from the GOP in the 2018 midterms. Hinson is likely to align with her party on core tax and spending policy, but supports over-the-counter access to birth control for women over the age of 18.

Granger also announced the subcommittee ranking member lineup would stay the same as it was during the 116th Congress.

In addition to those named above, other top GOP subcommittee members include Agriculture ranking member Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska; Energy-Water ranking member Mike Simpson of Idaho; Financial Services ranking member Steve Womack of Arkansas; Interior-Environment ranking member David Joyce of Ohio and Legislative Branch ranking member: Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.