Budget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch

Budget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch
© Greg Nash

House Budget Committee Chairman Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackGOP rep sounds off on Republican deficit plan during budget markup House GOP 2019 budget calls for deep Medicare, Medicaid spending cuts House panel to mark up 2019 budget 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.


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 RyanTrump backs down in rare reversal Trump, GOP launch full-court press on compromise immigration measure Meadows gets heated with Ryan on House floor MORE (R-Wis.) left the position after a four-year stint, his successor, former Rep. Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceHere’s how Trump’s tax law is raising health insurance premiums Press: Drain the swamp – of Scott Pruitt States must hold Trump to his word on working with them to solve ObamaCare 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 BlackScalise throws support behind Black, Blackburn ahead of Tennessee primary GOP lawmaker: Porn partly to blame for school shootings GOP lawmaker introduces bill to crowdfund border wall 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 DentEx-GOP lawmaker: Trump blaming Congress for his border separation policy is ‘a bunch of bull’ GOP chairwoman: Anyone who doesn't support Trump 'will be making a mistake' GOP will vote on immigration next week, sinking discharge petition 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 FrelinghuysenOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems see midterm advantage in new ObamaCare fight Lawmakers ask for increase in suicide prevention funding Overnight Defense: Trump defends summit results | GOP chairman tries to clarify canceled war games | House panel advances 4.6B defense bill | Saudis begin Yemen offensive 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 FortenberryThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Tensions mount for House Republicans Koch-backed group to target some Republicans over spending vote in new ad campaign Budget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch 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.”