Politics

Steering Panel to Meet Next Week on Next House Budget Chairman

Three candidates in the running as Diane Black steps aside

The GOP Steering Committee will meet Jan. 9 to pick a successor for outgoing Budget Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Republican Steering Committee plans to meet Jan. 9 to consider three candidates for the next Budget chairman, GOP aides said.

Reps. Rob Woodall of Georgia, Steve Womack of Arkansas and Bill Johnson of Ohio are vying to succeed Diane Black, who is stepping down from the position to concentrate on her campaign for governor in Tennessee.

Woodall, Womack and Johnson, all members of the Budget Committee, are expected to make presentations to the steering panel when it meets.

Under GOP procedures, the panel will then make a recommendation to the full party conference.

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More than two dozen Republicans, including leaders and regional representatives, sit on the steering committee.

A decision could come quickly after the meeting, a GOP aide said.

Black announced last week she is relinquishing the top Budget spot. She will remain in Congress but will give up her gavel as soon as a new chairman is approved by the conference.

“As we enter a new era under a brand new tax law and as members begin crafting a budget for fiscal year 2019, I am confident the focus will remain on addressing unsustainable mandatory programs,” Black said in a statement. “Without question, it is critical that lawmakers take real action to reverse the trajectory of our nation’s growing debt. While it requires tough decisions in the short-term, the result in the long-term will secure a bright and prosperous future for generations to come.”

After announcing her gubernatorial bid in August, many expected Black to step aside after the fiscal 2018 budget resolution was adopted. But she stuck around while Republicans worked on their overhaul of the tax code through the budget reconciliation process, serving as a member of the House-Senate conference committee negotiating the bill.

Whoever is selected will face the challenge of getting a budget resolution passed, let alone using reconciliation instructions to enact deficit-cutting legislation.

Black had to work exhaustively behind the scenes last year to get instructions for $203 billion in mandatory spending reductions written into the House budget, even though they were ultimately removed from the final fiscal 2018 resolution.

How to write the fiscal 2019 budget resolution and what, if any, reconciliation instructions should be included will be a tough decision for GOP leaders as they approach the midterm elections.

The fiscal 2019 budget resolution will be released, marked up and voted on in the middle of midterm primaries next spring and amid a debate over what policies Republican leaders and President Donald Trump should be prioritizing.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump are already suggesting that cutting entitlements should take a back seat to a costly infrastructure package, betting that filling potholes and fixing bridges holds more appeal to voters than curtailing their government benefits.

The bottom line: The new Budget chairman, whoever he is, will likely have a thankless and daunting task.

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