Budget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch

Budget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch
© Greg Nash

House Budget Committee Chairman Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackBudget chairs press appropriators on veterans spending Senate chairman urges move to two-year budgetary process On The Money: Senate passes first 2019 spending bill | Trump hits Harley-Davidson in tariffs fight | Mnuchin rips report of investment restrictions | Justices side with American Express in antitrust case MORE (R-Ark.) is considering giving up his post to become the top Republican on an Appropriations subcommittee in the next Congress.

The move would continue a recent trend of high turnover among budget chairs, a position that was once seen as powerful but has been increasingly sidelined by politics. 

“When I took the Budget Committee, the agreement was that I was going to take the Budget Committee for the remainder of the Congress, and that realizing that the next subcommittee chairmanship that would pop open on Appropriations would be mine, because I’m next in seniority,” Womack said.

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In recent years, the budget resolution has served more as a messaging document and a vehicle for reconciliation, a budgetary process that can side-step a Senate filibuster and was used to pass the GOP tax law. The larger decisions on spending levels, meanwhile, have increasingly been made by senior leaders.

From 2001 to 2015, the committee had just three chairs, each serving terms between four and seven years.

Since now-Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Ironworker and star of viral video wins Dem primary for Speaker Ryan's seat Live results: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut hold primaries MORE (R-Wis.) left the position after a four-year stint, his successor, former Rep. Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PricePelosi seizes on anti-corruption message against GOP White House staff offered discounts at Trump's NJ golf club: report GOP lawmaker calls for ethics rules changes after Collins charged with insider trading MORE (R-Ga.), stayed on for just two years before becoming secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration.

Price’s successor, Rep. Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackTrump’s endorsements cement power but come with risks The Hill's Morning Report — Trump optimistic about GOP’s midterm prospects as Republicans fret Women poised to take charge in Dem majority MORE (R-Tenn.), stepped down after just more than a year ago to run for governor.

If Womack leaves at the end of the term, he will have served less than a year.

Womack said he remained undecided and would not make a decision until he has a more concrete choice ahead of him.

“It would depend on, first of all, do I get reelected — I hope I do — who’s going to be the next [Appropriations] chairman, and what subcommittee would they be willing to farm out to me, and then I would just have to make that decision. Then I would have more known data points than I do now,” he said.

Another factor, he added, would be whether a joint select committee to reform the budget process delivers a new, more functional role for the committee. The committee is tasked with making recommendations by year's end, but few have expressed optimism that Congress will adopt a new, more functional process. 

“It may be that I say, ‘Gosh, get me out of here,’ you know, and move to approps. I have those options, but I did commit to the speaker for the end of the year,” he said.

It’s also possible the GOP could lose the House majority, depriving Womack and other Republicans of any gavels. In that scenario, Womack would still have to decide where he would prefer to serve as a ranking member on the Budget Committee or a subcommittee panel.

The topic came to the fore after a reshuffling of House Appropriations subcommittee chairmen this week that was prompted by the departure of Rep. Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentElection handicapper moves GOP leader's race to 'toss-up' The Hill's 12:30 Report Lawmakers, media team up for charity tennis event MORE (R-Pa.), who headed the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies. Dent is retiring from Congress.

Womack, who was next in line by seniority to lead an Appropriations subcommittee, was surprised by the details of the reshuffle. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenDems eyeing smaller magic number for House majority Puerto Rico mayor: Territory's profile has grown since hurricanes House panel advances homeland security bill with billion in border wall funding MORE (R-N.J.), who is retiring at the end of this cycle, was placed in charge of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee as a “placeholder” instead of taking the next member in line after Womack, Rep. Jeff FortenberryJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FortenberryIn the wake of ISIS: Seeking to restore what is right and good for the Yazidis Fortenberry named chairman of legislative appropriations subcommittee in House The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Tensions mount for House Republicans MORE (R-Neb.). 

Womack expressed concern that he might be relegated to heading the legislative affairs subcommittee instead of a more influential subcommittee. 

“I would prefer anything but leg, which most appropriators would say,” he said. "I mean I don’t think that’s any secret. But they kept it open.”