This story was updated Jan. 16, 2019, at 7:20 p.m. with more information.
NASHVILLE — While Democrats are in charge of the U.S. House in the new 116th Congress, Republican Rep. Chuck Fleischmann has nonetheless walked away with a major consolation prize.
The Ooltewah congressman, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has been named as the top Republican, or "ranking member," on the Homeland Security Subcommittee, a panel overseeing the Department of Homeland Security, the federal government's third-largest Cabinet department.
"I am excited to be assuming the position of Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee in the 116th Congress," Fleischmann said in a statement Tuesday.
Calling it a "critically important role," Fleischmann, who is starting his fifth term, said he is "humbled by the trust and support" placed in him by Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, the full committee's ranking member and his GOP colleagues.
"The proper funding to safeguard our homeland is synonymous with the protection of our country — from securing our southern border and ensuring our immigration enforcement agencies have the tools to protect our communities, to providing for our maritime first responders, swiftly rebuilding areas affected by natural disasters, securing our skies for safe travel, and preventing the flow of opioids into our country," Fleischmann said.
He said he is "ready to get to work to defend our nation against the challenges of today and the threats of tomorrow."
First, however, President Donald Trump, the Republican-led Senate and the Democratic-run House will have to resolve what is now the longest government shutdown in U.S. history as the president and House Democrats battle over Trump's demands for more funding for his proposed border wall.
It affects nearly a quarter of the federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security.
The Appropriations Committee and its subcommittees are responsible for appropriating the dollars for agencies across the federal government. Chairmen and even minority ranking members can wield great influence. The panel is considered one of the least partisan-riven panels.
The main committee has a dozen subcommittees.
Granger said in a statement that Fleischmann "has a long record of championing our nation's security. His strong commitment to supporting the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, and their families, made him my top choice for Ranking Member on the Homeland Security subcommittee. I look forward to working with him in this new capacity."
Fleischmann, whose name is among those floated as a potential GOP candidate in 2020 to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he is "very thankful" for the appointment.
"I'm actually able to help my state more in the House being a senior appropriator," he said in December.
Alexander is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. It can take years to advance on the panels.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who leaves office Saturday, said he is giving serious consideration to running for Alexander's seat. Bill Hagerty, a former state economic development commissioner and current U.S. ambassador to Japan, is seen as being interested in the seat if Haslam, his former boss, doesn't run for it.
Fleischmann said of the Senate seat that "if Gov. Haslam, Bill Hagerty or some of the other names take a pass on it, sure, I'll take a look at it."
But the congressman said regarding Haslam and Hagerty that "you'd have to be deferential to those two. But I'm keeping an open door. In business and in politics and in life, I've never wanted to close doors."
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.