WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, will be the top spending chief in the U.S. House of Representatives, making her one of the most powerful people in Congress.
The 15-term Congresswoman from New Haven was elected as chair of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday by a vote of her caucus, triumphing over U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, her leading challenger, and Marcy Kaptur, who dropped out of the race Wednesday night and endorsed DeLauro.
The vote was 148 for DeLauro to 79 for Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic aide said.
“Serving in this role will be one of the greatest honors of my life, and I am eager to get to work and responsibly fund our government in a way that meets the needs of this moment,” DeLauro said. “As House Appropriations Chair, I am prepared to deliver the boldest progress possible for Connecticut and families across the country in the next Congress.”
The position, a first for a Connecticut U.S. Representative, means DeLauro will be at the center of all federal spending — including Congress’s next COVID-19 relief package. She could inherit a fight over funding the government if Congress delays in passing its yearly spending bills until after the holidays.
She’ll also have the power to help ensure that federal funding flows to Connecticut priorities — like the state’s defense sector, transportation system, universities and more.
DeLauro will work closely with President-elect Joe Biden, whom she has known for decades, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on any major legislation with a price tag.
“Working families across the country will have a true champion ensuring that their voices are heard over the special interests, and that they have a seat at the table as we all work together with President-elect Biden and his administration to build back better from this pandemic,” said Gov. Ned Lamont.
DeLauro succeeds her friend U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who is retiring, in the role as Appropriations chair.
“Rosa has been one of my closest friends for my entire tenure in Congress. I treasure the memories we have made together, particularly our work with Speaker Pelosi to elevate issues of special importance to women and families that earned us the sobriquet DeLoSi,” Lowey said Thursday. “As I prepare to leave Congress, I know that the Appropriations Committee and the purse strings it controls are in good hands with Rosa.”
DeLauro has served on the Appropriations Committee for 25 years and currently leads the subcommittee that oversees education, labor and health spending.
As chair of the committee, she has said she wants to make the spending process more accessible for members of Congress, increase federal funding for areas of persistent poverty, bring back earmarks, which allow members of Congress to reserve funding for specific projects, and overturn the controversial Hyde amendment, which blocks federal Medicaid money from being spent on abortion, except if pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or results from rape or incest.
DeLauro won the position after a year of campaigning, during which she and her more than 40 member whip team recruited support with numerous phone calls and meetings, as well as fundraising for 2020 campaigns. On Tuesday, the House Democratic Policy and Steering Committee, a panel of over 50 representatives, voted to recommend DeLauro for the job. Then, just ahead of the pivotal vote, Kaptur, the most senior member in the race, dropped out and endorsed DeLauro.
DeLauro was considered a front-runner for much of the campaign, but Wasserman Schultz, the former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, bolstered her support recently as some Democrats sought generational change in House leadership, among other factors. The vote was held virtually.
U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1, who led DeLauro’s whip team, called DeLauro’s election to chair “a historic first.”
“Not since Jonathan Trumbull was elected Speaker of the House has Connecticut held such an important position in the United States Congress,” Larson said. “Rosa is the first member of Connecticut to be Chair of the Appropriations Committee. With Rosa DeLauro now Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Richard Neal of Springfield, Massachusetts Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts Chair of the Rules Committee, New England is now the most influential region in the country.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2, said DeLauro will have to be “balanced and fair-minded to all,” but the her position will give stakeholders from Connecticut a friendly ear when they need funding.