In a historic advance for female leadership in Congress, two women will lead the House Appropriations Committee for the first time ever.

The House GOP steering committee chose Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) on Thursday to be the top Republican on the panel, which is one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. She will join Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who has served as the committee’s top Democrat and will assume the chairmanship next year when Democrats take over control of the House.

This move follows a midterm election that saw record numbers of women elected.

Spots on the panel are hotly contested as they give lawmakers broad influence over federal finances, and leading the committee is a coveted assignment.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Granger, 75, a veteran lawmaker and longtime appropriator now finishing her 11th term in the House, beat three male colleagues to assume the prestigious post. Her victory was a significant signal from Republicans about their desire to elevate a woman in the House.

The GOP suffered badly among female voters in the midterms and will see their ranks in the House dwindle next year even as the number of female Democrats increases. There will be 89 Democratic women and 13 Republican women in the House next year. That’s an increase of 28 Democratic women from the current Congress — but a decrease of 10 Republican women.

Those figures have alarmed Republicans, particularly women in the House who have voiced criticism of their party’s commitment to recruiting and supporting female candidates.

“It is an enormous honor to be able to serve as the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. I appreciate the vote of confidence from the Steering Committee and all of the help and support I’ve received from so many members,” Granger said in a statement. “The hard work to reform the committee begins today.”

Lowey, 81, is in her 15th term in the House and has served as the committee’s top Democrat since 2013.

In the Senate, two women — Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) — are the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. But in the House, this will be the first time for two women to chair an important permanent committee.

In 2015, two women led a select panel created by House Republicans to investigate Planned Parenthood. Women also led the Select Committee on the House Beauty Shop, which was disbanded in 1977.

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