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New House Appropriations cardinals slate starts to take shape

Homeland Security subcommittee gavel an outlier, with no takers so far

Reps. David Joyce, R-Ohio, left, and Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, conduct a House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee budget hearing on Wednesday with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Reps. David Joyce, R-Ohio, left, and Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, conduct a House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee budget hearing on Wednesday with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

GOP House appropriators trying to sort out their subcommittee lineup after the ascension of Tom Cole of Oklahoma to the full committee chairmanship found themselves stymied Thursday by a familiar stumbling block: Homeland Security spending.

Other pieces have fallen into place more easily — Steve Womack of Arkansas claimed the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee gavel left open by Cole’s promotion, which in turn opened up the Financial Services subcommittee chairmanship for David Joyce of Ohio.

California’s David Valadao took the Legislative Branch gavel, as first-time cardinals usually do.

But Joyce’s departure from the Homeland Security subcommittee chairmanship after just one year left Cole without an obvious choice to lead the contentious panel, which is one of the toughest if not the toughest overall assignments. Homeland Security was the last bill resolved for the current budget cycle and the agency almost ended up in a full-year continuing resolution.

[Mayorkas soldiers on through budget hearings, despite impeachment]

After GOP appropriators met Thursday, Cole said they’d need an extra day to hammer out who would take the DHS subcommittee and any other changes that might necessitate.

There are members with “some interest” in that gavel, Cole said, adding that he would give them a day to think about it. The final lineup will likely be settled Friday, he said.

“It’s also a jurisdiction that is likely to get more money, when most of them will get less,” Cole said, seemingly trying to make the DHS panel sound more attractive. “It’s an extraordinarily difficult one, but it’s an important one … it’s something all our members feel pretty strongly about.” 

[Cole secures Appropriations gavel ahead of fraught budget cycle]

Mark Amodei, R-Nev., the former Legislative Branch subcommittee chairman, could end up with Homeland Security if no one more senior prefers to claim it. If a more senior member wants that gavel, it could set off more shuffling as other high-profile subcommittee jobs would open. 

One member ahead of Amodei in seniority who could claim the Homeland Security gavel is Andy Harris, R-Md., who currently leads the Agriculture panel. Harris, a House Freedom Caucus member, would likely try to tilt DHS funding and policy further to the right, though some appropriations watchers suspect he is content with Agriculture and unlikely to leave.

If Harris does switch, it would open up Agriculture for Amodei.

The former full committee chairwoman, Kay Granger, R-Texas, is not taking over a subcommittee. Granger isn’t running for reelection in November and relinquished her gavel after final spending bills for fiscal 2024 passed last month.

Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, the current Interior-Environment subcommittee chairman and one of the most senior panel members, said Thursday he is sticking with that role for the time being.

Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., the Labor-HHS-Education chairman who at one point considered a run against Cole for the full committee gavel, said he was staying put as well.

‘Eye-opening experience’

Joyce said his departure from DHS had more to do with Cole asking him to take over Financial Services. He said his background in accounting and tax policy positions him well for the panel, which oversees the Treasury Department, IRS, financial regulators and more.

“I certainly enjoyed my time in Homeland, it was an eye-opening experience,” Joyce said. “But I think I can really provide more of my abilities on something like [Financial Services], since I’m not afraid of numbers.” 

For his part, Womack appeared very content with where he landed at Transportation-HUD, which had been expected.

“There’s probably not a committee in the appropriations portfolio that has more of an impact and a potential impact on my state and my district than that of transportation,” Womack said. “We’re an area that has a lot of infrastructure-type needs.” 

Valadao, who served on the Legislative Branch subcommittee during his first term, from 2013 to 2015, said he would focus on “getting my feet under me. I haven’t sat on the committee in a while, so I have some catching up to do.”

The subcommittee’s debates over whether members should receive a pay raise — the first in over the decade — rose to attention during the fiscal 2024 process, as Amodei pushed for the increase. But Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., blocked the efforts by House leaders to get their members the cost-of-living raise, Amodei said. 

“I have not taken a position on that one yet,” Valadao said. “I’ll have a conversation with the chairman and see how this plays out.” 

After subcommittees are settled, Cole said the next priority would be working with leadership on a topline and then quickly setting subcommittee allocations, also known as 302(b)s. 

“I think under Tom’s leadership, we’ll probably be able to avoid some of these delays by pressing leadership on getting us topline numbers,” Womack said. “He’s going to put us on an aggressive path, which is a good thing.” 

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