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Regula Weighs Approps Bid

Ohio Rep. Ralph Regula (R) has begun telling colleagues that he is interested in becoming chairman of the Appropriations Committee and is considering whether to mount a full-fledged campaign for the position, according to House Republican sources.

The 78-year-old Regula is the current Appropriations vice chairman and second on the seniority list behind Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), who will have to surrender the gavel at the end of this Congress because of term limits. Reps. Jerry Lewis (Calif.) and Hal Rogers (Ky.), who are third and fourth respectively on the GOP roster, have already let it be known that they want the job.

Until this point, Regula had not told committee members or Republican leaders that he might pursue the post. In an interview last week, Regula suggested it was too early to think about such matters but also said it was natural for him to consider a bid given that he is next in line.

“I think you’re always interested in this job,” he said, while declining to answer a direct question about whether he planned to run for the chairmanship.

Currently chairman of the subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, Regula has been on Appropriations for almost three decades and is well-liked within the Republican Conference.

“I think Ralph would have a lot of support from senior Members,” said a GOP lawmaker who is close to the leadership.

At the same time, a senior Republican leadership aide predicted that, despite Regula’s long service, he would enter a chairmanship race with more obvious handicaps than either Lewis or Rogers.

“That would be more of an uphill battle,” said the aide.

The biggest hurdle to Regula’s becoming chairman would likely be his lack of fundraising prowess. While both Lewis and Rogers have stepped up their activity, Regula said he didn’t envision bringing in more cash this cycle than he had in the past.

“I’ve never been a person that raises a lot of money,” Regula said. “It’s just a matter of different styles.”

Through March 31, Regula’s campaign committee had $94,000 in the bank after having raised just $1,100 in the first quarter. In the 2002 cycle, he raised a total of $298,000 while handing out $43,000 — $38,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee and $5,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, but nothing to individual candidates.

Unlike Lewis and Rogers, Regula does not have a leadership PAC. The Ohioan also rarely takes political action committee money — he accepted $11,000 from such committees in the previous cycle and returned the only PAC contribution he’s received this year.

Another trait that could impede Regula’s path to the gavel is his centrism. Regula is co-chairman of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, and his ideological bent could worry Steering Committee conservatives who are concerned with holding the line on spending.

Republican leaders will also remember Regula’s 2001 vote against granting President Bush fast-track trade authority. Although Regula comes from a steel-producing state, leaders have said that they expect Appropriations cardinals to help on key votes if they want to hold their positions.

Regula himself serves on the Republican Steering Committee as a regional representative, as does Rogers.

If Regula does decide to make a serious gavel bid, he will have to do so without his longtime top aide, Connie Veillette, who recently left his office for a position with the Congressional Research Service. She has been replaced as chief of staff by Lori Rowley, who had served as Regula’s Appropriations assistant.

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