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Washington Report: Updates From the Capitol

Fattah Seeks Top Spot on Appropriations Panel


Shortly after Rep. David Obey (D-Wisconsin), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee stunned the Democratic caucus on Wednesday with the news that he will retire at the end of his term, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Philadelphia) announced his bid to succeed Obey. The panel oversees federal discretionary spending.

Fattah, who ranks 21st in terms of seniority, plans to challenge Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Washington), who ranks second and also chairs the Defense appropriations subcommittee. And although he said seniority is very important and should be considered, Fattah also said that the decision rests with the entire Democratic caucus. He also pointed out that Obey became chairman in 1994 by defeating a more senior lawmaker on the committee in a caucus-wide election. Fattah would be the panel’s first African American chairman.

In the meantime, he plans to spend the next several months talking with fellow Democrats about their spending priorities and reassuring them that if he is the chosen one, he will give it his full attention. He also said that he’s ready to make and defend the necessary tough decisions about how government spends money.

“They’ll be choosing between someone who already has responsibility for the committee’s largest subcommittee and someone who could focus full-time on running the full committee,” Fattah said.

That all depends, of course, on House Democrats retaining their majority after the fall elections.