After a historic and prolonged battle over the Speakership, House Republicans on Monday moved to wrap up some unfinished organizing business that was put on hold due to opposition to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — including picking who will lead key panels.
The House GOP Steering Committee, a panel of around 30 lawmakers consisting of leadership and elected regional representatives that makes selections for most chairmanships and committee assignments, made its choices for chairs of panels that were uncontested in December.
But it put its selections for four key contested chairmanships — for the Homeland Security, Ways and Means, Budget, and Education and Workforce committees — on hold as a group of hard-line conservatives expressed opposition to McCarthy that threatened to tank his Speaker bid.
House Republicans typically choose their ranking members or committee chairs weeks before the new Congress to allow time for the incoming leaders to hire staff and get organized.
McCarthy gets outsize influence over the Steering panel with four votes, while Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) gets two and all other members get one.
Over the weekend, McCarthy also selected Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), who voted against McCarthy on most of the 15 Speaker ballots last week, to fill the “Speaker Designee” slot on the Steering Committee.
Here’s who the Steering Committee picked:
Budget: Rep. Jodey Arrington (Texas)
Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas)
With former GOP ranking member Jason Smith (Mo.) winning the open Ways and Means chairmanship slot, three GOP members made runs to chair the Budget panel: Reps. Jodey Arrington (Texas), Buddy Carter (Ga.), and Lloyd Smucker (Pa.). A second ballot decided between Arrington and Smucker.
Arrington, who wore his lucky tie depicting cotton blooms as a reference to the large cotton operations around his Lubbock, Texas, district, told reporters that he talked to the Steering Committee about his work with the ”30 for 30” caucus, a group of 30 Republicans and 30 Democrats aiming to address the national debt.
“Republicans don’t get a pass either,” Arrington said. “We’ve waived budget points of order. We’ve waived spending caps before … I think the Democrats are more of the profligate spenders, but it doesn’t mean that we’ve been, you know, rock solid, in terms of our fiscal responsibility.”
The House Budget Committee is likely to have a bigger role in the 118th Congress after McCarthy and a group of hard-line conservatives reached an agreement to set overall discretionary spending levels for fiscal year 2024 at fiscal year 2022 levels, and will aim for spending cuts.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a McCarthy detractor involved with negotiating the deal, said on CNN Sunday that the agreement reached did not include cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and that they are “not going to touch” those entitlements.
Arrington said he suspected a bipartisan deal would eventually be cut to reform entitlement programs.
“The rubber will meet the road with the real decisions about bending the curve on spending and reforming programs. But that’s something I’m going to do with each and every authorizer and appropriator,” Arrington said.
“I’m going to work with every individual to see how far we can stretch responsibly to start doing right by, quite frankly, our children. Because they’re going there they will inherit a disaster, which is an understatement, if this thing goes south,” he added.
Small Business: Rep. Roger Williams (Texas)
The House GOP Steering Committee officially selected Williams to chair the Small Business Committee on Monday evening. It was the only uncontested committee chairmanship yet to be formalized by the Steering Committee, after it made selections for all other uncontested gavels in December. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) did not seek another term to chair the panel.
Education and the Workforce: Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.)
Republicans are renaming the panel that Democrats called the Committee on Education and Labor.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.) was granted a waiver from the steering committee to run for the gavel again. House GOP Conference Rules allow members to serve only three consecutive terms as head of a panel, and Foxx finished up her third term as the top Republican on the panel at the end of the last Congress.
Her office confirmed that the GOP Steering Committee selected her for a fourth term to lead Republicans on the panel.
Challenging Foxx for the seat was Tim Walberg (Mich.).
Ways and Means: Rep. Jason Smith (Mo.)
Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.).
A three-way race for the powerful tax-writing committee emerged after longtime former Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) retired.
In addition to Jason Smith, Reps. Vern Buchanan (Fla.), and Adrian Smith (Neb.) sought the seat.
Adrian Smith was the lowest vote-getter on the first ballot, and the panel went to a second round of voting to decide between Buchanan and Jason Smith, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) confirmed.
Jason Smith is a close McCarthy ally, and had been in negotiations last week to strike a deal with the hardline conservatives for Speaker. He opted against a potential run for Senate in the 2022 cycle as he announced a bid for the powerful chairmanship.
In a statement, Smith said the panel will “build on the success of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and examine how our policies can reward working families with a tax code that delivers better jobs, higher wages, and more investment in America,” as well as examine tax benefits for “corporations that have shed their American identity in favor of a relationship with China.”
“We will examine using both trade policy and our tax code to re-shore and strengthen our supply chains, where products and services vital to our national security are made here at home using American labor, as well as craft policies that help America achieve food and medical security rather than dependence on nations like China,” Smith continued. “We must also look at ways to encourage domestic energy production and achieve energy independence through the tax code instead of using it as a tool to punish energy producers as President Biden has suggested.”
Adrian Smith congratulated Jason Smith in a statement, and thanked his colleagues and his families for their support.
“Jason’s success means success for the entire Conference and – even more importantly – for the American people,” Adrian Smith said.
Homeland Security: Rep. Mark Green (Tenn.)
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.).
Green beat out Rep. Dan Crenshaw (Texas) to fill a vacancy created by former Rep. John Katko (N.Y.) retiring from Congress.
Green told reporters that he plans to have two full-time committee staffers working from the U.S.-Mexico border.
The staffers will ”be sitting there with [Customs and Border Protection],” Green said, “sending us real time updates on what CBP needs and the issues – whether it’s a big drug bust at the border, we’ll send a bunch of members down for, you know, for that and those kinds of things.”
The Homeland Security panel will have a major role in oversight and policy relating to the migration surge at the border, and plans to bring Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in to testify.
Green said that his focus will be not only on the physical border, but on cybersecurity and inter-agency responsibilities in the cyber space.
Green is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, and his selection to lead the panel is a win for the hard-line conservative group that was pressing for more conservative representation in committee chairmanships and on key panels.
Green praised his competitor Crenshaw as one of his “best friends in Congress,” and said beating him for the gavel was “not easy.”
—Updated at 9:39 p.m.