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Term-limited Granger plans to seek reelection; weighing waiver

Texas lawmaker is leaning toward an attempt to remain top Republican on the powerful House Appropriations Committee

House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger faces term limits after just two years with the gavel.
House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger faces term limits after just two years with the gavel. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, is planning to run for reelection and is considering whether to seek a waiver to remain the top Republican on the spending panel in the 119th Congress.

Sources familiar with Granger’s plans say the chairwoman, 80, is poised to run to continue to represent her Fort Worth-area district and is leaning toward an attempt to stay on top of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

House Republican rules bar members from serving more than three consecutive terms on top of committees. Granger was elected ranking member in late 2018, serving two terms before securing the gavel this year after Republicans took back the House in the midterms. She will need a waiver to stay in the position.

If Granger, first elected in 1996, runs again she’s likely a shoo-in for reelection, having cruised to a nearly 29-point victory last November.

Granger spokesman Alex Attebery confirmed the chairwoman is planning on running for reelection but said she hasn’t made any decisions regarding her role on the Appropriations Committee in the coming years.

“The chairwoman’s attention and focus are on the work of the committee this Congress,” Attebery said in an emailed statement.

The 118th Congress is in its early days, and Granger is still settling in as the committee’s chairwoman with major battles to come over the next two years.

However, early conversations about who the top Republican on the committee in the next Congress will be are starting to pick up as Granger approaches her term limit under the conference’s rules.

The decision on whether to grant Granger a waiver, if she seeks one, will fall to the Republican Steering Committee, which party leaders have an influential role in. The steering panel granted House Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., a waiver in this Congress to continue to serve on top of that committee.

Appropriations is considered a higher-profile assignment, but Granger’s historic role as the first woman to lead Republicans on that panel could play a role in GOP leaders’ decision-making.

Shades of 2011

The last top Republican to seek an extension to their time on top of the committee, former Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., was not granted a waiver when he sought one after the 2010 elections. Lewis, who died in 2021, was the committee’s chair from 2005 to 2007 and the ranking member for the next two terms.

At the time, Lewis faced competition from more junior panel members — Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and former Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. — who put forward their candidacies despite Lewis’ bid for a waiver.

Ultimately, Rogers emerged victorious and went on to serve a full six years as chairman during that period of uninterrupted GOP control. He did not seek a waiver when his term was up after 2016.

Another top committee Republican was denied a term limits waiver to take the gavel in 2011; ex-Rep. Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, lost his bid to lead Energy and Commerce after the 2010 midterms. Instead, former Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., won the chairmanship and served a full six-year term before handing it off.

Granger’s predecessor, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., served just one term as the top Appropriations Republican; he didn’t seek reelection in 2018.

This year, four senior appropriators who sought to retain their positions leading their preferred subcommittees in this Congress did not receive waivers, leading to a major shake-up in House Republicans’ Appropriations subcommittee chair lineups.

Granger faces a particularly challenging role leading the committee through divided government and navigating Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s promise to early opponents of his speakership bid to write the fiscal 2024 appropriations bills at a fiscal 2022 topline level.

A fiscal 2022 topline would mean an 8 percent cut across the board. Granger has vowed not to cut defense spending, meaning nondefense accounts would see a nearly 18 percent cut in bills written to that topline.

If Granger doesn’t receive a waiver, a robust competition to replace her on top of the committee would likely ensue. The committee’s vice chair, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., is largely seen as the favorite to replace Granger.

Cole chairs the Rules Committee, a high-profile slot especially as McCarthy appointed three conservatives, including two House Freedom Caucus members who initially opposed his speakership bid, to the committee. Cole, who also chairs the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, ran against Granger for the position in 2018.

Other senior appropriators would likely be interested in the slot, as the 2018 contest featured a five-way race. Longtime appropriators Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, also ran against Granger in 2018 and could seek the position again.

Aderholt, the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee chair, is the most senior Republican on the panel other than Rogers.

Simpson, the Interior-Environment panel’s chair, dropped out of the race in 2018 after Republicans lost control of the House.

Both Granger and Frelinghuysen led the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee before rising to lead the full committee, and current chair Ken Calvert, R-Calif., could follow suit with a bid of his own.

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