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Rule ambiguity could prompt GOP chairman squabble

These aides explained it like this:

GOP rules governing committee term limits were adopted by House Republicans in time for the 104th Congress. Senate Republicans adopted the language nearly verbatim shortly after that. In 2001, Senate Republicans adopted a clarification to reflect that tenure in the minority does not count against the term limit for committee chairs.

"Time served as Ranking Member shall not be counted as time served as chairman," reads the clarification in the Republican Conference rules for the Senate, according to the Congressional Deskbook. 

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The aides say, then, that the rules are unclear and that the three members in question should not be ousted from top committee spots. 

But others say the rule is not ambiguous at all, and that tenure in the minority clearly counts toward term limits. 

Michael Steel, a spokesman for House GOP Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden to Putin: Tough sanctions, straight talk Boehner on Afghanistan: 'It's time to pull out the troops' Boehner says he voted for Trump, didn't push back on election claims because he's retired MORE (Ohio), said the term-limit count includes time in the minority.

“The House Republican Conference currently has a three-term limit for ranking members and chairmen," he said.