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Jockeying for Rep. Stewart’s Appropriations seat in full swing

Freshman Oregon Republican seen as possible front-runner; Steering Committee to decide in early September

Sources familiar with the House Appropriations race say Oregon Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer is a favorite of leadership and a strong contender for the seat.
Sources familiar with the House Appropriations race say Oregon Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer is a favorite of leadership and a strong contender for the seat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Retiring Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, is departing Congress in mid-September, leaving open a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee and kick-starting a scramble among Republicans seeking the spot. 

At least three freshmen — Oregon’s Lori Chavez-DeRemer, North Carolina’s Chuck Edwards and New York’s Nick LaLota — are angling for the seat, sources familiar with the pending opening say. The GOP conference’s Steering Committee is expected to make its decision in early September.

Chavez-DeRemer spokesman Aaron Britt confirmed her interest in the seat Monday and said she had been having conversations with her colleagues.

The former mayor of Happy Valley, Ore., won her suburban Portland district by 2 percentage points in a seat previously held by a Democrat. Chavez-DeRemer’s 2024 race is rated a Toss-up by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. 

“As a former mayor, she believes her record of responsibility using tax dollars would make her a great addition to the committee,” Britt said. 

Sources familiar with the race say Chavez-DeRemer is a favorite of leadership and a strong contender for the seat, especially as she and Stewart are both from the West.

Britt said Oregon has had no representation on the Appropriations Committee since 1993, when Democrat Les AuCoin served on the committee. 

Competitors

Edwards in a statement Tuesday confirmed his interest in the position, noting he served on the North Carolina State Senate’s Appropriations Committee before coming to Congress. He said he wants to “use my experience to help rein in wasteful spending and get our country back on a better fiscal trajectory.”

A July 27 letter to Steering Committee members signed by other GOP members of the North Carolina delegation makes the case for Edwards to get the nod, pointing out the Tar Heel State currently has no representation on the Appropriations Committee. Former Rep. David E. Price, D-N.C., a veteran appropriator, didn’t seek reelection last year.

Influential signatories on the letter include Richard Hudson, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx and Financial Services Chairman Patrick T. McHenry.

Members of New York’s delegation are making a regional push for LaLota, sources familiar with the race say. He represents a Long Island district that Inside Elections rates Lean Republican — safer than a Toss-up, but still vulnerable.

LaLota, the former Suffolk County elections commissioner, is a member of the “SALT Caucus” and, along with some fellow New York Republicans, has opposed limits on deductions for state and local taxes. 

There are no New York Republicans on the committee despite the party’s success in the 2022 midterm elections in the state. The last New York Republican on the committee was James T. Walsh, who retired in 2009. 

Sources said Texas GOP Rep. Morgan Luttrell also may have expressed an interest in the Appropriations seat. After this report’s initial publication, a spokesperson said Luttrell was not seeking the position and was happy with his current committee assignments.

Luttrell, a retired Navy SEAL, represents a deep-red district north of Houston and sits on the Armed Services, Homeland Security and Veterans’ Affairs committees. He previously served as a special adviser to Energy Secretary Rick Perry during the Trump administration, and as an energy consultant. 

Had he made a play for the Appropriations seat, Luttrell would have likely been at a regional disadvantage, with five of the committee’s 34 Republicans representing Texas districts. 

Others are likely to throw their names into contention. In particular, the hard-right House Freedom Caucus is expected to make a play for the seat as the group seeks to increase its influence on the committee after adding two members from its ranks this year, for a total of four currently on the panel.

Stewart’s departure will also open a plum spot on the highly sought-after Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which controls roughly half of all discretionary spending doled out each year.

Tenuous time

The seat will open at a tenuous time for the committee, which still has two fiscal 2024 appropriations bills to mark up in full committee: the Labor-HHS-Education and Commerce-Justice-Science measures. 

With House Freedom Caucus members calling for additional cuts to the fiscal 2024 appropriations bills, these two bills could face a tougher path forward in the committee than the other 10 bills, which all advanced along party lines. 

But the House will be back for a week before Stewart’s Sept. 15 resignation, so it could hold those markups before he retires. And the Freedom Caucus can already block bills from moving out of committee in its current state if all four of its current members oppose the bill. 

Once Stewart departs, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will still have only four votes to spare on partisan legislation. But losing a leadership ally won’t be helpful on stopgap funding legislation needed to avert a partial government shutdown starting Oct. 1.

Stewart, who was first elected in 2012, announced in May that he would resign from the House because of his wife’s health concerns. The primary to replace Stewart will be held Sept. 5, with a Nov. 21 special election to fill the seat scheduled.

Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.