Editorials

Tarrant wins if Granger ascends

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Congresswoman Kay Granger speaks to the Star-Telegram editorial board in July 2017.
Congresswoman Kay Granger speaks to the Star-Telegram editorial board in July 2017. dkent@star-telegram.com

News that U.S. Rep. Kay Granger is going to vie for chair of the House Appropriations Committee next year, one of the most powerful jobs in Congress, is exciting news for anyone working on a major Tarrant County project that relies on federal funding.

The Fort Worth Republican announced her bid for the job after the current chairman, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R- N.J., said he would retire at the end of his term. Granger, who currently chairs the committee’s crucial defense subcommittee, wasted no time in saying she wanted the job. She will face stiff competition from Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., for the position.

But if Granger becomes the first woman to hold the post, it could bring Fort Worth congressional clout it hasn’t seen since hard-driving House Speaker Jim Wright held that gavel from 1987 to 1989.

In defense spending, Granger has insisted she would never favor a local program over another if it isn’t best for the country. But it isn’t a stretch to see that local projects and programs would at the very least get prime attention.

Here are a few obvious projects that could profit from her Granger at the helm:

Panther Island

Once called Trinity Uptown, Panther Island is part of a massive, $910 million public works project that spans over 1,800 acres on the city’s north and east sides. When done, it will create an 800-acre island on the northside with an urban lake. Criticized by some as a boondoggle, Granger is its promoter-in-chief. She scored big in 2016 when Congress authorized up to $526 million in funding, but lawmakers haven’t actually doled it out. As chair, she could make it happen.

F-35

At $379 billion, the F-35, which is being assembled at Lockheed Martin’s sprawling plant in west Fort Worth, is often described as the the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history. The plant employs about 14,500 people, including 8,800 involved in building the F-35. President-elect Trump launched an early Twitter storm against the F-35, calling the program “out of control.” Granger worked behind the scenes to protect it. As chair of appropriations attacks against the F-35 may be muted.

Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base

In 1991, the year Granger was elected the first woman mayor of Fort Worth, the Base Realignment and Closure commission decided to close Carswell Air Force Base. It was a huge economic blow to the community. Luckily, the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth took its place in 1994, becoming a major employer, contributing $6.6 billion to the state’s economy. Granger has said she watches the base “ like crazy.” As head of appropriations she could better protect it.

There’s precedent for appropriations chairs bringing home the bacon. The late U.S. Rep. George Mahon of Lubbock was chair from 1964-1978 and was the juice behind air force bases in Lubbock and Big Spring. There wouldn’t be an Interstate 27 from Lubbock to Amarillo without him.

Speaker Wright, who represented the same 12th District, made it his mission to get his hometown its fair share. Granger, as appropriations chair, would have opportunities to do the same.

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