Top House Republicans chose Rep. Jerry Lewis (search) on Wednesday to chair the chamber's Appropriations Committee (search), a panel that controls one-third of the $2.5 trillion federal budget.

Lewis, R-Calif., beginning his 14th House term, is expected to be formally handed the job on Thursday when all House Republicans meet to select committee chairmen. Their approval is considered a formality following Wednesday's secret ballot, closed-door vote of GOP leaders.

The 70-year-old Lewis is a longtime veteran of the Appropriations panel, one of the few in the House that tends to operate with bipartisan cooperation. That committee promises to be a battleground this year as President Bush continues trying to hold down domestic spending.

Lewis was chosen over veteran Reps. Ralph Regula (search), R-Ohio, and Harold Rogers (search), R-Ky. He replaces Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., who had served the full six-year limit that House Republicans have placed on committee chairmen.