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Watt Moves to Prevent Dicks From Holding Dual Gavels

Rep. Mel Watt (N.C.) has put forward a resolution for Thursday’s Democratic Caucus meeting that would prohibit Rep. Norm Dicks (Wash.) from simultaneously holding the ranking membership on the Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on defense.

Dicks was named the ranking member on the full committee last week. He told Roll Call in an interview that he would like to serve as the top Democrat on both the committee and subcommittee in the 112th Congress.

“I will be on the subcommittee one way or the other,” Dicks said. “There is going to be more discussion about this issue, and I will abide by whatever the Caucus decides.”

He has been subcommittee chairman in the 111th Congress.

Watt is taking up the mantle for Rep. Chaka Fattah (Pa.), who ranks 21st in seniority on the panel, and made Dicks’ desire to serve as ranking member on a subcommittee a major part of his unsuccessful run to serve as ranking member of the Appropriations panel.

Watt’s resolution states that the “Chairman or ranking minority member of a full committee or select committee with legislative jurisdiction shall not be the chairman or ranking member of a subcommittee of that committee or any other such full committee.”

His resolution exempts the House Administration, Standards of Official Conduct and joint committees from the provision.

Historically, Democrats have allowed the chairman of the Appropriations panel to lead a subcommittee. Appropriations Chairman David Obey (Wis.), who is retiring at the end of the 111th Congress, has said he believes the current system should remain in place. In addition to his role as chairman, Obey serves as head of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

He said in an interview this year that the panel works best when the chairman also holds a subcommittee chairmanship.