May 31, 2003
Regula weighing run for House chair spot
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — Rep. Ralph Regula is weighing a run for chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, where he already holds an influential position in shaping federal spending.
“I want to at least have an option,” Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, said Friday. The 16-term congressman is next in line to become chairman of the full committee by virtue of his seniority. “It’s not a decision I’ve made at this point.”
The current chairman, Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, R-Fla., must relinquish the chairmanship at the end of 2004 in accord with GOP term limits for chairmen.
A congressman since 1973, Regula already holds one of the most important leadership positions on the committee. He is chairman of an appropriations subcommittee that, along with its Senate counterpart, allocates $131 billion a year in federal spending on health, education and labor programs.
In recognition of their power to shape federal spending, the chairmen of the 13 appropriations subcommittees often are called cardinals after the top tier of leaders in the Catholic Church.
During the past few weeks, Regula, 78, quietly decided to seek re-election next year. He is pondering whether to remain as a subcommittee chairman or seek the full committee chairmanship.
Regula is No. 2 in seniority after Young. That traditionally would make him the favorite to succeed Young. Seniority, however, is not always the decisive factor in the decision, which is made by House Republican leaders with the concurrence of the full Republican membership in the House.
Take the equally important House Ways and Means Committee, where Rep. Philip Crane of Illinois was in line to become chairman in 2000. The GOP leadership instead tapped Rep. Bill Thomas of California, who was considered a more dynamic and effective leader.
Regula has expressed interest in the appropriations chairmanship only recently as it became apparent that two other members of the committee with less seniority, Reps. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., and Hal Rogers, R-Ky., are taking a serious look at the position.
Unlike Regula, Lewis and Rogers are prodigious fund-raisers who share their contributions with party organizations and fellow Republicans. In that respect, at least, they have an advantage over Regula in seeking a leadership position, Capitol Hill observers say.
Regula does not accept contributions from political action committees and has not raised a lot in the past. But he indicated he would at least consider raising more money if it were necessary to get the position.
“I have not historically been a big fund-raiser, but I’ve got to weigh whether or not that’s a factor,” he said.
Though interested in the chairmanship, Lewis said he would not seek it unless Regula takes himself out of the running, his spokesman Jim Specht said.
“Mr. Lewis has said he would support Mr. Regula,” Specht said.
As a cardinal, Regula has steered millions of dollars to his district in just the last year. He might be able to direct even more federal projects to the area if he became full chairman, he said.
The downside is that he would have to give up leadership of his current subcommittee, which he said “touches the lives of everybody” through directing spending to educational initiatives, medical research and jobs-training programs.