Jockeying begins in race for House Budget gavel

Jockeying begins in race for House Budget gavel
© Greg Nash

The race to replace Rep. Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackRyan picks his negotiating team for tax cut bill Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him Lawmakers take to Twitter to spread the Thanksgiving cheer MORE (R-Tenn.) as chairwoman of the House Budget Committee is underway, with some members of the committee making plays for the position and others testing the waters.

Black announced this week that she is running for governor of Tennessee. Though she plans to remain Budget chairwoman until the 2018 budget resolution passes the House, she is not expected to stay in the position after that.

That creates an opening atop a powerful committee that has served as a springboard for other Republicans, including Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids MORE (R-Wis.) and former Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), now President Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services.

Behind Black in seniority are three lawmakers who might not be interested in the job. The panel’s vice chairman, Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), is thought to be eyeing a run for the Senate. The next two lawmakers in line — Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) — already hold powerful positions on the Appropriations Committee. 

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) has been reaching out to the Republican Steering Committee about the chairmanship, and some GOP staffers see him as the front-runner for the job despite being relatively low in seniority. 

Johnson has shown some fundraising prowess, something that is taken into consideration by leadership when handing out prized committee assignments. 

Other members of the Budget panel are leaving the door open to seeking the gavel as well. 

One GOP aide pointed to Reps. Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackGOP budget chair may not finish her term Jockeying begins in race for House Budget gavel Trump reopens fight on internet sales tax MORE (R-Ark.) and Rob WoodallWilliam (Rob) Robert WoodallGOP budget chair may not finish her term Ensuring air ambulances don’t save lives only to ruin them with surprise medical bills Senators fight proposed tariffs on solar panels MORE (R-Ga.) as two other potential contenders. 

Womack, who is on the House GOP’s whip team, did not shy away from the possibility. 

“If the congressman were approached about the chairmanship, I believe he would give it serious consideration,” a Womack spokesman told The Hill.

Woodall, meanwhile, is among the longest-serving committee members eligible for the chairmanship, ranking sixth in seniority behind Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). 

A spokesman for Woodall demurred about a possible run for the gavel, simply saying that he supported Black staying in place as long as necessary, at the very least until the budget resolution is approved on the House floor.

Woodall has experience in a leadership position, having briefly served as chairman of the Republican Study Committee.  

A spokesperson for Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), another Budget Committee member, said, “He's happy to serve wherever his colleagues think is best.”

Still, even though GOP rules require most committee chairs like Black running for outside office to vacate their chairmanship or seek a waiver, the Budget chair may be exempt, because it is dealt with in a different section of the rules.

“Technically, according to the conference rules, she doesn't need to seek a waiver. The rule that limits committee chairs from running for another office essentially excludes Budget,” a GOP aide noted. 

With the House in recess for the rest of August, there will plenty of behind-the-scenes jockeying before the Republican Steering Committee makes a formal decision.