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 BlackBottom line Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion Democrats take heat from party | More states sue Purdue over opioid epidemic | 1 in 4 in poll say high costs led them to skip medical care Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee 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 RyanTrump slams 'rogue' Sasse after criticism of executive actions Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey MORE (R-Wis.) and former Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), now President Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services.

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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 WomackEx-CBO director calls for more than trillion in coronavirus stimulus spending Overnight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts MORE (R-Ark.) and Rob WoodallWilliam (Rob) Robert WoodallDemocrats go big on diversity with new House recruits House revives floor amendments Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to limit further expansion of 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force 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.