Lowey announced her departure even as the specter of another government shutdown looms later this year. Although the impeachment fight has overshadowed spending issues, Trump and Democrats are once again at odds over funding for the wall.
“I am honored that my colleagues in Congress elected me as the first Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee and will fight vigorously for House Democratic priorities as I negotiate spending bills for fiscal years 2020 and 2021,” Lowey said in a statement.
Lowey’s district in the affluent northern suburbs of New York City is safely Democratic. One high-profile name that has long been discussed to eventually run for the seat is Chelsea Clinton. A representative for Clinton did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Lowey is just the latest in a growing list of lawmakers to announce retirement plans this year, but most of them have been Republicans. She was facing a primary challenger from the left, but the candidate was not considered a serious threat.
Instead, Lowey said in her statement that after 31 years in Congress it was time to move on. She cited accomplishments including increasing funding for Head Start, afterschool programs and community health centers.
Lowey will have to fight a few more battles with Trump before she can leave. The government is currently operating on a short-term spending bill that expires Nov. 21. New spending legislation will have to pass by then to avert a government shutdown. But Democrats and the Trump administration remain far apart on funding for his border wall, with Trump demanding more than $5 billion and Democrats insisting they will give nothing. If they don’t waver, the Trump administration is already making plans to once again use executive authority in a national emergency declaration to raid other spending accounts to build his wall.
There’s certain to be jostling to replace Lowey atop the Appropriations Committee. Whoever wins the job will enter uncertain territory after the 2020 election, with deficits on the rise and and the need for reforming major entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare increasingly clear as they gobble up ever larger portions of the budget.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lauded Lowey as “a master legislator whose values-based leadership has touched countless lives in New York, across America and around the world.”
“On the positive side of her departure, Chairwoman Lowey’s decision frees her to preside even more intensely over the Appropriations Committee,” Pelosi wrote.