House Democrats elected Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who represents the greater New Haven area, to chair the House Appropriations Committee for the 117th Congress. The veteran congresswoman will take over the committee in January following the retirement of Rep. Nita Lowey of New York. The vote from the full caucus ratified the Steering and Policy Committee’s vote on Tuesday to recommend DeLauro for the position.
On Friday, DeLauro told Connecticut Examiner that she is thrilled and humbled by the new role.
“To be chosen by my peers as chair of the Appropriations Committee is an honor,” DeLauro said. “The committee holds the power of the purse. Nothing really happens at federal level without the appropriations process. Every aspect of our lives: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the research, our jobs, the transportation, everything that makes us function as a country goes through Appropriations.”
House Democratic leaders have said publicly that they plan to bring back earmarks for the 117th Congress, a decade after House Republicans banned them. Earmarks, which members of Congress used to use to allocate federal funding to specific projects and organizations in their districts, have been criticized by government spending watch dogs, but DeLauro hopes bringing them back will allow members to better serve their districts.
“They’re helpful for communities with revenue issues so we can assist in areas most important to our state and local entities and make it so local governments can complete projects without having to raise property taxes,” DeLauro said. “Help from the government can really be beneficial, and we’ll still have the guardrails that were put up so earmarks wouldn’t be abused.”
When asked about the prospects for the timeline for restoring earmarks, DeLauro said it would all be under discussion, and that she’d work with the caucus to get as much input as she needed to proceed forward.
Another of DeLauro’s goals for the new Congress is to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the mother or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape.
Each year, Congress reauthorizes the Hyde amendment as an attachment to the appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services. Speaker Pelosi has said the amendment will not be included in spending bills in 2021, but it is unclear whether spending bills without the amendment could garner enough support from the wider House and Senate to pass.
In response to a question about the prospects for passing spending bills without the Hyde amendment, DeLauro said her sole priority is the relief package, and all other issues are secondary.
“Our highest priority is to get the virus under control, and then, how we will get our country back on track economically,” DeLauro said. “Those have to get under control first. We need a relief and stimulus package that will address the needs the Republican administration has abdicated responsibility for.”
COVID relief negotiations in Congress have been stalled for weeks, but today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she was open to the $908 billion bipartisan proposal, backing down from months of holding out for a larger stimulus of $2 trillion or more.
When asked whether she supported that strategy, DeLauro said she holds Republicans entirely responsible for the gridlock.
“The House has put forward a bill and the Speaker and Secretary Mnuchin were deliberating that bill and moving forward on it when Senator McConnell pulled the rug out from under them and told the Senate to go home,” DeLauro said. “He said we weren’t going to deal with this until after the election. But it appears now that he doesn’t want to deal with it after the election, either. This administration has turned its backs on its moral responsibility to people.”