Budget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch

Budget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch
© Greg Nash

House Budget Committee Chairman Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Rubio asks White House to delay B Pentagon contract over Amazon concerns   New CBO report fuels fight over minimum wage 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 RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.) left the position after a four-year stint, his successor, former Rep. Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceIndustrial food system is at the heart of biodiversity degradation and climate change Joe Lieberman's son running for Senate in Georgia The Hill's Campaign Report: Impeachment fight poses risks to both Trump, Dems 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 DentOvernight 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 The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller testimony gives Trump a boost as Dems ponder next steps The Hill's 12:30 Report: Muller testimony dominates Washington 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 FrelinghuysenThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Top House GOP appropriations staffer moves to lobbying shop Individuals with significant disabilities need hope and action 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 FortenberryHouse 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 Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill 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.”