WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kay Granger, who became chair of the House Appropriations Committee in January, is not about to lose her grip on power – at least not without a fight.
Just ask House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
In 2018 Granger, a U.S. House representative from Fort Worth, came within a hair’s breadth of losing a contest for the top Republican spot on the House Appropriations Committee – after a face-off with McCarthy.
A “furious” Granger stomped into then-majority leader McCarthy’s office to confront him about letting his buddy, then-Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., use McCarthy’s office to lobby for the top GOP appropriations slot, which Granger had been favored to win, according to Politico.
Graves, lower in seniority on the committee, was nonetheless waging a vigorous campaign for the position, with McCarthy’s tacit support.
“I never take anything for granted — ever. And so I work very, very hard to do this because I can do a good job. And I‘ve proven I’ve done a good job,” Granger said at the time.
Granger won, barely, on the third round of votes by the Republican Steering Committee, made up of about 30 members who control the selection of chairs.
Now she’s staving off another challenge: keeping her chairmanship beyond 2024.
Newly elected to be chair of the House appropriations panel in the 118th Congress that began in January, Granger is looking ahead to see if she can beat House Republican Conference term limits that prevent her from continuing as chair after this two-year term. (That is with the expectation that the GOP will again win the majority in 2024.)
“Serving on the Appropriations Committee has been one of the greatest honors of my time in Congress,” Granger said in a statement when she began her tenure as chair. “For over two decades, I’ve worked to ensure that taxpayer money is used responsibly and that our military has the resources it needs to protect the American people. My colleagues put their trust in me as ranking member, and I am deeply humbled to serve as the first Republican woman to lead the Committee as chair.”
Republican rules limit the member holding the top spot on committees to three consecutive two-year terms, unless there is a waiver, which are not easy to come by.
But Granger, who declined to comment for this article, has already put out the word that she will be seeking a waiver from the rules, according to her staff. The argument is that for four years, from 2018 to 2022, she was the ranking member – when the GOP was in the minority – without the power of the chairmanship.
It was first reported by Roll Call, an outlet that covers Capitol Hill.
Will Granger prevail?
“The more powerful the committee, the more likely the waiver,” Dave Wasserman, House political expert for the non-partisan Cook Political Report, told the Fort Worth Report. “If you’re this powerful already, it can be easier to get around the rules.”
Case in point: In the current Congress Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-Va., secured a waiver to chair the House Education & Labor Committee from the Republican Steering Committee.
And in 2012 Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., before becoming speaker, got a waiver to chair the House Budget Committee.
Although Granger was unopposed to lead the committee in 2020 and 2022, there may well be rivals to her 2024 bid, including the next-in-seniority Rep. Bob Aderholt, R-Ala., and Rep. Michael Simpson, R-Idaho.
A big factor for Granger will be fundraising; the party expects big returns from major committee chairs by setting quotas for the party campaign committee that supports House candidates.
A review of her fundraising by Fort Worth Report shows her in a robust position to make her case for getting a waiver.
In the 2021-2022 election cycle, Granger, as a ranking member, raised more than $550,000 for the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, according to Federal Election Committee data.
Granger will have a larger quota as chair – the GOP does not publicize the dues for each chair but a report last month by Issue One, a bipartisan political reform group, found some of the quota amounts.
“In 2017, conservative Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., published a book that said chairs of the most powerful House committees were expected to raise $1.2 million apiece over two years for the National Republican Congressional Committee — and that the Republican House Speaker was expected to raise $20 million,” according to the Issue One.
“She ought to have no problem raising a lot of money,” said Wasserman.
There was an aftermath to the vicious 2018 fight over the appropriations position.
Graves was reportedly livid about the loss, according to the publication Puck, and announced his retirement from Congress and did not run for reelection in 2020.
His successor: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.