Be p. John Carter (R-Texas), who previously led the committee, said, “I don’t know who wants it.”
“It’s a good committee – you get frustrated, but you at least have a chance to try,” Carter added. He led the border spending panel as the Trump administration made immigration an even bigger political flashpoint, forcing a shutdown following the then president’s insistence on funding a wall border.
It helped cement the House’s reputation as the top spot for homeland security spending as the toughest job among the multiple powerful “cardinals” shaping agency budgets on the Appropriations Committee. With the job comes enormous pressure at home, especially for Republicans: “People expect you to be able to fix it. They forget that this is a body where you have to have 218 votes,” Carter said. “It becomes a very difficult place to live.”
A House GOP aide, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the open post, joked that the Homeland Security post was the Appropriations Committee’s “redhead son-in-law.”
Landing a high-profile role on the House Appropriations Committee — which hands out more than $1 trillion in federal spending each year — is typically one of the most sought-after positions on Capitol Hill. This is especially true under a divided government, when few bills beyond funding have a strong chance of reaching a president’s desk. Leading the committee’s defense or transportation efforts, for example, might mean doling out millions of dollars to military bases or bridge projects at home, often with a subcommittee chair’s name stamped on it for years to come.
It’s a much different story with the Homeland Security Spending Panel, however. Its leaders are rarely able to get their bill out of committee, let alone pass in the House.
As the panel grapples with sensitive issues ranging from border patrol staffing to detention beds to law enforcement officers, any success will require negotiations with the opposing side on immigration – including the very idea has become more difficult since the Trump era.
“It’s the most difficult. Neither side appears to be in a position to prepare a bill,” Rep. Tom Cole (R- Okla.). “It creates a lot of political problems for you at home.”
GOP leaders have some time ahead of them, as well as the President’s new appropriations representative. Kay Granger (R-Texas), will have to appoint the dozen subcommittee leaders known as “Cardinals,” a deliberate comparison to the power of the Catholic Church.
Republicans and Democrats eagerly await the selection of these leaders, which will depend in part on whether Kevin McCarthy’s leadership team grants waivers to allow more experienced members to remain in leadership positions despite the rules. limitation of the mandates of the conference. Those waivers have been used in the past, though some lawmakers and GOP aides say privately that it’s uncertain how big they will be next year.
For his part, Fleischmann made it clear to GOP leaders that he wanted either the Energy and Water panel or the Labor and Health and Human Services panel: “These decisions will be made above me, but I made it clear during I’ve wanted one of the other two for months.”
If moved from the Homeland Security panel, the next Republican in line would have been Rep. steven palazzo (R-Miss.) — but the six-term member lost his primary this year. Some Republicans believe another owner, former sheriff Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.), might be interested in the gig.
There’s at least one other shuffle coming to the roster of credit cardinals: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) also lost her primary this year, giving up her potential role as the top Republican on the panel that sets legislative branch spending.
Whoever takes over the Homeland Security panel will work with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), a vocal critic of President Joe Biden’s migration policy who has long advocated for increased support for border patrols and immigration and customs enforcement, as well as tougher border rules. The pair would still likely struggle to find a deal on such contentious issues, but some Republicans believe if there’s one Democrat they could strike a deal with on border money, it would be the centrist Cuellar.
Yet immigration isn’t the only puzzle awaiting a panel that oversees everything from the Secret Service to the Coast Guard.
“Right from the start, we knew it would be a difficult mission as we were trying to merge 22 different agencies under one roof,” Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who was the first lawmaker to oversee the panel in 2003. “It’s a tough job.”
Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.