Pelosi looms over contest for top slot on House Appropriations Committee

March 21, 2012

By Russell Berman - The Hill

Abortion politics could roil the race for the top Democratic spot on the House Appropriations Committee, with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) playing the role of a potential wild card.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) is challenging Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) for the plum post, which will become open next year after the retirement of Rep. Norm Dicks (Wash.), currently the ranking Democrat on the committee. The winner of the race will become the chairman of the powerful committee if Democrats retake the House this fall.

Kaptur is next in line in seniority among members currently on the panel, but she has a mixed record on abortion rights, which has played an increasingly prominent role in spending debates over the last year. Lowey, a former chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), is emphasizing her support for abortion rights in private calls soliciting support from colleagues, a source close to the New York congresswoman told The Hill.


Kaptur, who last week defeated fellow Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) in a primary, has also clashed in recent years with Pelosi, who could exert considerable influence in the race. Kaptur joined with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) to call for a delay in leadership elections after Democrats lost their majority in 2010, a move that threatened Pelosi’s grip on power. And earlier that year, Kaptur was one of the last holdouts to support the Democrats’ healthcare overhaul. Along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), she pushed for assurances that the law would not allow for government funding of abortion.

That past could complicate Kaptur’s drive for one of the most coveted positions on Capitol Hill.

In 2011, the question of whether the abortion provider Planned Parenthood would receive federal grants in appropriations bills nearly led to a government shutdown.

Republicans leaders in Congress pledged to keep up the fight, and the top GOP presidential candidates have also taken up the cause, making it more likely to come up again in future appropriations battles.

Rep. Jim Moran (Va.), an appropriator who trails both Kaptur and Lowey in seniority, is also seeking support for the ranking Democratic position.

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