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.
But in an interview after announcing her retirement, Lowey said that Democrats’ clashes with Trump were not the reason for her decision to leave Capitol Hill.
“It’s very disappointing to me that we are serving with a president of the United State who doesn’t respect the Congress, who believes he has the answers to every question," Lowey said. “But that isn’t the reason I’m retiring. If anything, I will be in office as head of the Appropriations Committee until December of 2020 so I’m ready for the fight, I’m ready to preserve our values. I just felt that after 32 years it’s time to move on.”
Lowey’s district in the affluent northern suburbs of New York City is safely Democratic. One high-profile name that has 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 said she has not spoken to Clinton or her representatives.
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 her team did not consider the candidate a major threat.
In a statement, Lowey cited accomplishments including increasing funding for Head Start, after-school programs and community health centers.
But she will have to fight a few more battles with Trump before she can leave. The government is 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.
“The Democrats will not appropriate money for the wall. Period," Lowey said.
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 the need for reforming major entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare increasingly clear as they gobble up ever larger portions of the federal 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.
Lowey was part of a dwindling generation of lawmakers accustomed to pursuing bipartisan solutions over engaging in partisan warfare.
The lead Republican on the Appropriations Committee, Kay Granger of Texas, made history with Lowey as the top two women atop the spending panel.
“One might think that a Jewish Democrat from New York and a conservative Republican from Texas wouldn’t have much in common, but they would be wrong,” Granger said in a statement. “What started as a working relationship turned into a friendship that I will forever cherish.”