Budget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch

Budget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch
© Greg Nash

House Budget Committee Chairman Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackOvernight 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 Deficits to average record .3 trillion over next decade: CBO 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 RyanWho should be the Democratic vice presidential candidate? The Pelosi administration It's not populism that's killing America's democracy MORE (R-Wis.) left the position after a four-year stint, his successor, former Rep. Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceDNC chair says app used in Iowa won't be used in other primary states Hillicon Valley: Iowa chaos highlights misinformation threat | Officials blame app for delayed results | Company offers 'regret' | Nevada officials drop plans to use app | Ohio ramps up election security Company behind Iowa Democratic caucus app expresses 'regret' 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 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.), 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 DentThe biggest political upsets of the decade Ex-GOP lawmaker: Former colleagues privately say they're 'disgusted and exhausted' by Trump Overnight Health Care — Presented by Better Medicare Alliance — Federal judge blocks Trump from detaining migrant children indefinitely | Health officials tie vaping-related illnesses to 'Dank Vapes' brand | Trump to deliver health care speech in Florida 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 FrelinghuysenRepublican lobbying firms riding high despite uncertainty of 2020 race Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority 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 FortenberryWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way House Democrats urge Trump to end deportations of Iraqis after diabetic man's death House Appropriations passes defense bill that would limit funds for border wall, pull US support from Yemen war 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.”