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Key Chairmen Could Be Booted From Steering Committee

Ryan. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Ryan. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Every committee chairperson could soon have a voice in who gets appointed to his or her panel, according to a proposal to revamp the Steering Committee that’s being mulled by Speaker Paul D. Ryan and a seven-member task force.  

But there’s a catch: The six chairmen who already have permanent seats on the Steering Committee would have to step aside. The goal is to create a more inclusive culture in the House Republican Conference that Ryan, R-Wis., has promised to promote.  

As part of a broad overhaul of conference rules, Republicans are poised to vote next week on a proposal to change the configuration of the Steering Committee, which assigns members to most House committees.  

The 33-member slate is currently made up of elected leadership, regional representatives, members from recent congressional classes and the chairmen of the Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Rules, Ways and Means, and Budget committees.  

In the lead-up to Ryan’s selection as speaker, many members argued leaders had too much power on the Steering Committee and there needed to be broader representation among the rank-and-file.  

Sources familiar with these discussions shared details of the proposal with CQ Roll Call on condition of anonymity so as not to get ahead of a formal announcement. They also stressed that this was still a work in progress and things could change at any time.  

Republican Policy Chairman Luke Messer, R-Ind., who sits on both the Steering Committee and the task force convened by Ryan, declined to share confidential conversations.  

“The specifics are still being worked out, but the task force is actively working toward consensus and a detailed written proposal should be floated by early next week,” Messer told CQ Roll Call. “Any final proposal would have to be ratified by a vote of the entire conference.”  

According to sources, the current plan would call for five of the six committee chairmen on the Steering Committee to be replaced with members elected by the GOP Conference. The sixth slot would be reserved for any committee leader who needs the Steering Committee to recommend appointment of a new member to his or her panel.  

The change about committee chairpersons could take place before Thanksgiving, with appointment of more regional representatives made early next year.  

The proposal could be good news for committee leaders not already serving on the Steering Committee. It would also mean two Ryan allies — Budget Chairman Tom Price of Georgia and Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas — would not have permanent seats on the Steering Committee.  

There could also be institutional repercussions for removing certain chairmen from the roster, sources told CQ Roll Call. Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., for example, would lose his say in who is named to the Budget Committee, which determines the spending levels appropriators have to work with to fund the government.  

Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, also would not be invited back to the table since the speaker appoints the chairman and members of his committee. He could remain on Steering if he were selected to represent the Texas delegation. That Texas position is already held by Rep. Lamar Smith, who is chairman of Science, Space and Technology Committee.  



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