Canton Repository

August 14, 2003

Regula leaning toward seeking top Appropriations spot

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Rep. Ralph Regula may seek the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee, a post that would make him one of the most prominent and powerful members of Congress.

“I’d like to become chairman,” Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, said Wednesday. “I’m leaning that way.”

Even though the position does not become vacant until 2005, the jockeying has begun.

The current chairman, Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, R-Fla., must step down at the end of 2004 because of GOP limits on leadership terms.

In addition to Regula, two more members of Appropriations — Reps. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., and Hal Rogers, R-Ky. — have expressed strong interest in the top spot.

Regula, 78, serves as vice-chairman of Appropriations in recognition of his seniority on the committee, which is second only to Young’s. He also chairs a key appropriations subcommittee — Labor, Health and Human Services and Education — which shapes federal spending on education, health initiatives and job-training programs.

As chairman of the full Appropriations Committee, Regula would oversee the preparation and passage of all 13 spending bills that finance the government, as well as emergency-spending legislation.

One implication for his constituents is that he would be in a position to direct federal projects to his district from any of these spending bills.

“If you’re chairman, you have the opportunity to focus on the activities of all the subcommittees and the way in which they impact on Ohio and the 16th district,” he said. “It would expand the range of opportunity.”

As a first step toward a likely bid for the post, Regula is forming a “leadership PAC,” a political action committee he would employ to raise campaign contributions for fellow Republicans.

“To be considered for that position, the party expects you to be aggressive in fund-raising for the election of Republican members of the House,” he said.

Regula has never been much of a fund-raiser in the past. And he has refused to accept campaign contributions from political action committees, which represent special interests.

“I was more comfortable in voting to not be obligated to any special-interest group,” he said, adding that he didn’t need special-interest money.

Although he will continue to reject special-interest contributions to his own campaign, Regula is leaving the door open for special-interest donations to his leadership PAC. He expects the PAC to be in operation in about two weeks.

Regula previously served as chairman of the Appropriations Interior subcommittee. When Democrats controlled the House, he was the top Republican on the Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary and Military Construction subcommittees.

Lewis and Rogers are ranked third and fourth, respectively, in seniority on the committee after Regula, but both are prodigious fund-raisers for the party.

Two months ago, Lewis said through a spokesman that he would step aside if Regula sought the chairmanship. Rogers has not made a similar pledge.

Selection of the next Appropriations chairman does not occur until after the November 2004 election. A group of top GOP leaders who make up the Republican Steering Committee will choose a chairman, who then needs approval from Republican House members.