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House conservative calls for delay in replacing appropriations chair

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Rep. Robert Aderholt still isn’t declaring whether he wants to run for the powerful Appropriations Committee chair. Instead, he’s asking his colleagues to delay the election altogether.

The GOP Steering Committee is slated to vote Tuesday on a recommendation to lead the panel. That’s expected to be Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the only person currently running for the post. Aderholt has been weighing a bid to succeed Granger, but hasn’t formally jumped into the race.

The Alabama Republican is the most senior GOP member of the committee, next to outgoing House Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas), who announced last month that she’s giving up her gavel early, ahead of a planned retirement at the end of this term.

In a letter to House Republicans on Wednesday, Aderholt pushed his colleagues to focus on reforming a “fundamentally flawed” government funding process before choosing Granger’s successor. Aderholt, who leads the prominent Labor-HHS-Education spending panel, voted against the $1.2 trillion funding package that he helped negotiate last month. He argued that earmarks inserted by Senate Democrats would flow to illegal immigrants and facilities that provide abortion services.

“A change in the appropriations committee leadership … presents a perfect opportunity to change the process,” Aderholt wrote. “Instead of hastily selecting a new Appropriations chair, I believe that now is the time to focus on correcting the process and developing our theory of government on how we will manage our responsibilities.”

After the GOP Steering Committee meets Tuesday to recommend Granger’s successor, the pick then heads to the full Republican conference for a vote.

Cole, who serves as vice chair of the Appropriations Committee and leader of the Transportation-HUD spending panel, already has the endorsement of nearly every other senior Republican appropriator, known as the cardinals. The Oklahoma Republican will likely easily win support from Steering, which tends to favor more establishment candidates for leadership posts.

House Republicans have already sought to make significant changes to the annual appropriations process, with little success. To secure the speakership last year, Kevin McCarthy made a number of promises to his right flank on spending, and conservatives ultimately booted him from the top leadership spot, saying he had failed to uphold his end of the bargain.

A particular point of contention, both for Aderholt now and other conservatives during McCarthy’s speakership race, was congressional leaders’ tendency to pass massive government funding bundles with little to no time to review legislative text. Instead, those lawmakers demanded that both chambers pass each individual spending bill — a total of 12 pieces of legislation.

But both McCarthy’s and Speaker Mike Johnson‘s attempts to do so last year repeatedly hit walls with the right flank, resulting in multiple embarrassing defeats on the House floor due to GOP infighting.

Ultimately, Johnson successfully fought to break up the dozen annual spending bills into two packages, instead of one massive bundle, which cleared Congress late last month before lawmakers broke for a two-week recess.

But all of the bills were essentially negotiated at the same time, often behind closed doors. Conservatives still complained that text was released at the last minute, containing few Republican wins or real spending reductions, leaving little time for review before members were forced to vote. And the right flank still largely voted against both packages.