Unlikely Partnership in House Gives Lawmakers Hope for Border Deal

WASHINGTON — When it became clear that Representative Nita M. Lowey, Democrat of New York, would lead the House Appropriations Committee, she received a cherrywood gavel, her name and new title engraved in silver.

It was a gift from Representative Kay Granger, Republican of Texas, a longtime committee colleague.

“It’s a lady’s gavel,” Ms. Granger said this past week, her own engraved red gavel by her side. “Powerful.”

And when Ms. Granger secured her position as ranking member, Ms. Lowey was the first to call to congratulate her.

Because of their committee ranks, both women represent House party leaders on the bipartisan panel of lawmakers negotiating a compromise on border security, and their unlikely partnership — Ms. Lowey, 81, is an ardent liberal, and Ms. Granger, 76, is a fierce conservative — is one reason their colleagues believe they can reach an agreement before government funding again lapses on Friday.

Individually, they have shattered a number of glass ceilings in local politics and on Capitol Hill. Ms. Lowey was the first woman to oversee the campaign arm for House Democrats; Ms. Granger was the first Republican woman elected to represent Texas in the House.

(“I can work things out and I can blow things up,” she told her Republican colleagues in a presentation capped with footage of her blowing up an old bridge in Fort Worth.)

Now together, they have broken another: It is the first time two women have held the highest leadership positions on the Appropriations Committee, one of the most prestigious panels on Capitol Hill.

Ms. Lowey and Ms. Granger will be responsible for leading the negotiations to fund the next fiscal year and reaching a two-year agreement to avoid a reduction in spending levels. And they will continue to guide debate over funding for border security, especially given speculation that a final deal will involve a multiyear compromise.

Their colleagues say it is the ultimate recognition of two lawmakers who have spent years climbing the ranks, often outside the spotlight, honing their ability at the negotiating table and learning how to work together with colleagues across the aisle.

“It’s not just, Oh, look, we’ve put two women in,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “No, you’ve put two of the absolute best legislators you could have in Congress on there.”

Both women have cultivated reputations as dogged negotiators, making deals with a graciousness that might belie their tenacity.

Ms. Lowey pioneered legislation that requires food manufacturers to list the top ingredients responsible for allergic reactions as well as anti-drunken-driving initiatives, while Ms. Granger has successfully lobbied for increases in military spending and investment in the F-35 fighter jet, which is built in her district.

“If anyone underestimates their toughness,” said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida and a member of the Appropriations Committee, “they do it at their own peril.”

Despite their stark ideological differences, their approach to negotiating — an eye for detail, a good-natured acknowledgment of their detractors — has become cohesive, particularly after years of late-night meetings and hearings.

Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and a longtime appropriator, said that both women work “in the style your mother told you to do.”

“Disagreeing without being disagreeable,” he said. “It’s what the American people tell you they want, but seldom reward.”

The two women have swapped leadership roles over eight years on the subcommittee that deals primarily with funding for the State Department and foreign operations, bonding over trips abroad and grappling each year with how to allocate money.

In an interview, Ms. Granger recalled how Ms. Lowey, as chairwoman, made a point of not treating her “like a piece of furniture” the way ranking members often are — and Ms. Granger reciprocated when she oversaw the panel.

“We are honest with each other,” Ms. Lowey said. “You always know where she stands.”

“When she’s the chair, I will lose the battles,” she added with a grin. “When I’m the chair, I win them.”

Ms. Granger, a former teacher, “can freeze you with a stare,” Mr. Cole said, while Ms. Lowey has been known to “tsk tsk” him in the past for what she considered an excessive smoking habit. Yet they are always collegial, he said. Ms. Lowey, in particular before meetings, is often quick to offer a hug or a friendly pat on the arm to other lawmakers.

“In this institution, you’ve got a lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of friends,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and a close friend of Ms. Lowey’s, who described the relationship between the appropriators as “unbelievably close.”

Both Ms. Lowey and Ms. Granger have had opportunities to move beyond the Appropriations Committee: other panels, the Senate, leadership positions with their parties. But they say they have found their niche in using spending levels to affect policy.

“It was consistent of who I am,” Ms. Lowey said. “The job gives you opportunity.”

“This is what I want to do,” Ms. Granger said, “and I wanted to do it well.”

They frequently swap stories and the occasional complaint, Ms. Granger said, but prefer to spend their time outside Washington with family or cultivating the occasional hobby.

Ms. Granger carefully schedules blocks of time — two hours minimum — to paint, particularly large canvases of abstract art. (Initially unsatisfied with her ability, she takes lessons.)

Ms. Lowey prefers to relax with a pint of ice cream or frozen yogurt. (Her preferred flavors: raspberry, mint chip and pistachio.)

But side by side in both the conference and appropriations panels, they hope that their dynamic will foster an environment where bills get passed — and more women step forward to lead.

“You leave them alone, and they’ll get to a deal faster than leadership,” said Mr. Cole, the Oklahoma appropriator. “There’s nothing they haven’t seen.”

Source link

more recommended stories

  • On Politics: Trump and Advisers May Have Different Goals for North Korea

    Good Friday morning. Here are some.

  • Mueller Report Expected to Go to Justice Department Within Weeks

    WASHINGTON — The new attorney general,.

  • CNN Is Criticized for Hiring Trump Administration Aide as a Political Editor

    Sarah Isgur Flores, a Republican spokeswoman.

  • On Politics: Inside Trump’s War on the Investigations Encircling Him

    Good Wednesday morning. Here are some.

  • Bernie Sanders on the Issues: Where He Stands and What Could Derail Him

    The measure, drafted by Representative Alexandria.

  • Elizabeth Warren’s Native American Ancestry Draws a Shrug From These Voters

    “She definitely made a mistake,” he.

  • Anthony Weiner Is Out of Prison, and in a Re-Entry Center in Brooklyn

    [What you need to know to.

  • Heather Nauert Withdraws From Consideration as U.N. Ambassador

    PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump’s.

  • Watch Out. Tax Season Is Even More Stressful Than Usual.

    Take a deep breath, a drink,.

  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Returns to Work at Supreme Court

    WASHINGTON — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

  • Ilhan Omar Confronts Venezuela Envoy About Iran-Contra Affair and Human Rights – Video

    Channels & Shows Home Search U.S..

  • With Procedural Maneuver, House G.O.P. Elevates Anti-Semitism as Political Issue

    The National Republican Congressional Committee blasted.

  • Unmistakable Divide Among Women in Virginia Over Accusations Against Fairfax

    It is an even more awkward.

  • As Primary Season Begins, Who Can Grab Trump by the Ratings?

    You can tell how deeply Donald.

  • On Politics With Lisa Lerer: The Sexism Shield

    Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your.

  • ‘He May Not Even Be a Free Person,’ Elizabeth Warren Says of Trump in 2020

    CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Countless Democratic.

  • Mission ‘Accomplished’? Trump Boasts of Being Boon for Military

    WASHINGTON — Over the past two.

  • In Surprise Abortion Vote, Roberts Avoids ‘Jolt to the Legal System’

    Mr. Specter, at the time a.

  • On Politics: ‘Green New Deal’ Plan Is Unveiled

    Liberal Democrats hope to redefine the.

  • Albany’s ‘Wonder Twins’ Form a Power Duo, Challenging Cuomo’s Influence

    [What you need to know to.

  • Virginia Attorney General Says He Also Dressed in Blackface

    RICHMOND — Virginia Attorney General Mark.

  • Beto O’Rourke to Make 2020 Decision by End of February

    Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat whose.

  • On Politics: Scandal Splits Top Virginia Democrats

    Good Tuesday morning. Here are some.

  • Attacking a Pay Wall That Hides Public Court Filings

    WASHINGTON — The federal judiciary has.

  • Trump Won’t Commit to Making Mueller Report Public

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President.

  • ‘I Am Not Either of the People in That Photo’ – Video

    Channels & Shows Home Search Politics.

  • Justice Alito Temporarily Blocks a Louisiana Abortion Law

    WASHINGTON — Saying the Supreme Court.

  • Trump Discusses ‘Fake News,’ and Its Repercussions, With Times’s Publisher

    “And I think I am, too,”.

  • Sanders Unveils Estate Tax Plan, Joining Democrats Who Want to Tax the Rich

    Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a.

  • Kamala Harris’s Misleading Answer About a Police Shooting Bill

    What Was Said Jake Tapper, CNN.

  • After a Shutdown Test of Wills Comes a Test of Governance

    By the nature of their role.

  • On Politics: A Pro-Israel Bill Also Aims to Divide Democrats

    The legislation, which allows state and.