Congress was taken by surprise this week by the retirement of House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-New York).  On Thursday, Chairwoman Lowey announced she would finish out the remainder of her term, but will not seek reelection in 2020.  

Her retirement, and the competition to claim her gavel, will shakeup one of the most influential committees in Congress.  Unlike the Senate, where committee leadership positions are largely determined by seniority, House leadership weighs a variety of political and legislative factors when selecting chairs for key committees.  The resulting shakeup among the subcommittee chairs could potentially determine which member controls funding for rural programs in the next Congress.

Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), Chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor-Education-Health and Human Services, is considered the leading candidate to succeed Chairwoman Lowey.  Representative Peter Visclosky (D-Indiana), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Defense, told reporters immediately after Lowey’s announcement he would not seek her position and Chairman Jose Serrano (D-New York), who helms the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science, announced his own retirement earlier this year.  With Chairmen Visclosky and Serrano out of the running, the main challenger to Chairwoman DeLauro would be Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the most senior Democrat on the committee.  As previously discussed, seniority is not the sole factor for a chairmanship and Kaptur was passed over in 2012 when Lowey herself became ranking member instead.  Turnover among the Appropriations Subcommittee chairs, often referred to as “cardinals” for the amount of power and influence they wield, has rippling effects throughout the committee.  Changes among the cardinals could reshape who distributes funding for rural programs in the 117th Congress.