Dent possible pick for appropriations chairmanship

Once considered the most sought after title on all of Capitol Hill, Lehigh Valley Rep. Charlie Dent may be next in line to assume the gavel of one of the subcommittees responsible for doling out federal funds.

With the announced retirement of two Republican colleagues who currently hold chairmanships, Dent is next in line to head one of the 13 appropriations panels based on his seniority, according to Congressional Quarterly, a DC-publication specializing in policy and Congress. Dent is specifically next up to take the helm of the subcommittee overseeing funding for the transportation and housing agencies, the report says.

With Congress unable to agree on individual funding bills for years, the power of the appropriators have diminished from years past. The inefficiency of Congress, coupled with the end of earmarks - the individual district or region-specific projects members used to insert in spending bills - has made the appropriations process almost obsolete.

Still, chairing one of the once all powerful appropriations' panels is still considered a significant coup that increases a lawmaker's visibility inside the Beltway. If Congress ever gets back to regular order - where appropriators are given a budget to work with and then puts together a spending plan for all the federal agencies - Dent would emerge as one of the most lobbied men in town.

And if earmarks ever returned, Dent's position would also give the Lehigh Valley a huge advantage in securing federal dollars for local priorities.

Dent has only been a member of the appropriations committee since 2011. His seniority doesn't guarantee him the job. Typically, the chairman of the full committee will make the assignments for the subcommittees.

Dent, who is fiscally conservative about cutting back government spending, is far less rigid than many in his party about slashing and burning federal programs, which could make for some interesting head butting debates if Dent was in charge.

From CQ:

The retirements of Republican Reps. Frank R. Wolf and Tom Latham will open up two “cardinal” positions on House Appropriations and continue an overhaul of the panel at a period when appropriators are trying to reassert their clout.

...

Two GOP moderates, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, are next in line for subcommittee gavels based on seniority. After them are several more conservative lawmakers elected as part of the tea party wave of 2010, who view slashing federal spending as central to their mandate. They include Tom Graves of Georgia and Kevin Yoder of Kansas.