Roughly half of the House’s 21 committees will have new Republican leadership next year, creating several competitive races among colleagues looking to move up the ranks.
The majority of the openings come from retiring GOP chairmen, most of whom have reached the six-year limit Republicans place on their committee leaders.
Several members have made their interest in the openings clear, as Republicans await the November results to determine whether the committee races will be for chairmanships or ranking member posts.
The Republican Steering Committee, a group comprised mostly of GOP leaders and regional representatives, will decide which candidate is best for each role. It considers a variety of factors, including vision for the committee, seniority, fundraising and relationships within the House Republican Conference.
The Steering panel’s recommendations are passed on to the full conference for ratification.
The outcomes of the races are hard to predict because the Steering Committee composition will change this fall before the panel sits to choose the committee chairmen or ranking members.
Republicans will either have a new speaker or minority leader, who would carry oversize influence on Steering with four votes, and likely a new No. 2 in leadership as well, a position that comes with two votes. Everyone else on the 32-member panel gets a single vote.
The Steering Committee is composed largely of regional representatives. Per GOP conference rules, the new speaker or minority leader will appoint a task force to redraw those regions to reflect conference membership in the new Congress. The members of the redrawn regions will vote to elect their representatives, so several current Steering members may not return to the panel.
That’s all assuming the Steering Committee still exists in its current form. House Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan has called for “a complete shakeup of the process for selecting committee chairs” as part of his campaign for speaker. It’s unclear how much support there is for this in the conference, however.
Despite the uncertainty at Steering, committee leadership races have already begun to take shape. The following is an overview of members currently jockeying for openings. More members may enter the races in the coming months and some may ultimately drop out.
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The Appropriations gavel is highly coveted, with five members running to chair the committee that controls federal discretionary spending. Current Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey is retiring.
In order of seniority, the five members who want to replace Frelinghuysen are Reps. Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama, Kay Granger of Texas, Mike Simpson of Idaho, Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Tom Graves of Georgia.
Multiple sources have suggested that Granger has the edge in this race, but a lot could happen in the coming months.
Granger is touting her experience having served on eight of the panel’s 12 subcommittees. She currently chairs the Defense Subcommittee, which is in charge of the most money of all the subcommittees.
“Rep. Simpson is most concerned with preserving our Republican majority, and once that is accomplished, he will continue to explore expanding his role in the committee through his experience and leadership,” Simpson spokeswoman Nikki Wallace said.
Cole is arguing that he’s a team player who always delivers his vote in support of GOP-crafted appropriations measures and that he’s been willing to take on tough assignments. He was dispatched to the Budget Committee and asked to lead the most contentious of the appropriations bills — Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.
Graves is meeting with Steering members and arguing that he’s different from other appropriators. He points to his work as chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, where he worked in a provision to effectively work around the budget caps by setting aside $585 million in a fund that can only be spent when there is no longer a budget deficit.
Some of the candidates’ pitches are similar. For example, Granger and Cole both want to improve the committee’s member services operation.
The most unpredictable committee race is probably for Financial Services chairman. The big question here is whether North Carolina Rep. Patrick T. McHenry will pass up an opportunity to seize the gavel to run for a higher leadership post. The GOP’s chief deputy whip is expected to run for whip, but he has not yet announced his plans.
A McHenry bid could potentially clear the field of other candidates, but if he is out of the picture, there’s plenty of interest.
Lucas, who is also senior on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, where there’s another opening, is running for a chairmanship and having a lot of good and productive conversations with Steering members and leadership about a lot of different scenarios, according to an aide. He is touting his track record from 2011 through 2014 as chairman of the Agriculture Committee, where he worked through regular order and helped push through the last bipartisan farm bill to be enacted.
Luetkemeyer has been meeting with Steering members about his interest in the chairmanship, according to his spokeswoman Catherine Costakos. He touts his career as a banker, experience chairing several of the panel’s subcommittees and track record working across the aisle.
Huizenga spokesman Brian Patrick confirmed his boss is “all in and excited about the opportunity to serve as chairman.”
“Duffy is running and has been meeting with Steering members. He is focused on the fall through November, and has been traveling the country and doing events for other members,” his spokesman Mark Bednar said.
The opening here is likely why Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul is not following the other term-limited chairmen into retirement. The Texas Republican is running to replace retiring Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce of California.
Wilson is technically more senior to McCaul, but they joined the panel at the same time. Yoho, who is only in his third term, is lower in seniority.
McCaul’s experience as Homeland Security chairman provides him with an edge over the other candidates.
Wilson was asked to lead the Republican Study Committee’s foreign affairs and national security task force that the conservative caucus restarted in June.
Yoho, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, is touting his work chairing the Foreign Affairs Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee, primarily his legislation to streamline U.S. foreign assistance to provide better alternatives to Chinese investment that has passed the House but is awaiting Senate action.
With McCaul term-limited out of the chairmanship, Alabama Rep. Mike D. Rogers is seeking the post. He is the most senior Republican on the panel who is not retiring besides New York Rep. Peter T. King, who has already served as chairman.
Rogers is running “given his position of seniority and leadership on the committee since it was formed in 2005,” his spokeswoman Shea Miller said. “He has spoken to members extensively on the subject.”
New York Rep. John Katko is also contemplating a bid.
“Given Rep. Katko’s background as a federal prosecutor and leadership on Homeland during his time in Congress, he’s actively considering it,” his spokeswoman Erin O’Connor said.
Chabot ranks higher in seniority on the panel, but Collins has strong relationships, which he’s built further through his leadership role as Republican Conference vice chairman.
A pro for Chabot is that he has experience as a committee chairman, having led the Small Business panel for the past two Congresses. He is opting to run for Judiciary rather than serve a final term on Small Business.
“I’m in,” Chabot said in a statement. “I believe that my experience on the House Judiciary Committee and my even-handedness when it comes to leading the House Committee on Small Business, make me a good candidate for the job, especially in times like this.”
Collins has also publicly declared his intentions to seek the gavel. He’s recently been involved in high-profile efforts to pass bipartisan bills to reduce prison recidivism rates and update music copyright laws through the House.
Jordan, another high-ranking Judiciary member, could run for the post if he loses his bid for speaker.
Oversight and Government Reform
The only member currently running for the Oversight and Government Reform chairmanship is Oklahoma Rep. Steve Russell. But the panel is full of Freedom Caucus members, one of who may ultimately decide to enter the race.
Russell ran for the post before when Jason Chaffetz vacated it in 2017 to retire early from Congress, but the Steering Committee chose South Carolina Rep Trey Gowdy, who is retiring without having served a full term as chairman.
“I think what a lot of folks saw last time when I ran is I’m someone who brings a broad range of skill sets,” Russell said in an interview.
Russell said the Oversight panel over the past decade has focused increasingly on investigations and “neglected the reform side” of its duties. He said he wants to restore the balance, noting, “It’s sorely needed.”
The government overhaul efforts Russell would want the panel to lead include stabilizing the Postal Service and tackling the problem of unfunded pension liabilities.
On the investigations side, there’s more work the panel could do in the national security arena, like probing matters related to intellectual property theft, he said.
Science, Space and Technology
The opening here created by Texas Rep. Lamar Smith’s retirement is one that Lucas is considering besides Financial Services.
The two candidates who have committed to running for Science, Space and Technology chairman are California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the most senior Republican on the panel after Smith, and Texas Rep. Randy Weber, a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Rohrabacher previously chaired the panel’s Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee and authored the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act that led to billions of dollars in private investment for U.S. space exploration, his spokesman Andrew Eisenberger said.
“Congressman Weber is running for full Science Committee chair,” his spokeswoman Emma Polefko said. “While he certainly respects the value and leadership of other more senior members on the committee, he is also aware that their priorities might not be with the committee.
“The congressman has provided considerable leadership on the committee already through his role as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy,” she added. “For these reasons, along with the significant ties of the committee’s jurisdiction to his district and region, Congressman Weber would like to continue his leadership on the committee with the chairmanship.”
With Chabot running for Judiciary chairman, there will be an opening at Small Business. The field of candidates for this post has not yet materialized like it has for other positions opened by retirements.
Luetkemeyer is senior on this panel but is currently running for the top spot on Financial Services.
One possible candidate to head Small Business is California Rep. Steve Knight.
“Right now, I’m focused on my re-election efforts and my constituents in California,” Knight said in a statement. “I look forward to assessing opportunities in the 116th Congress later this fall.”
Transportation and Infrastructure
Graves said in a statement that he is “uniquely qualified” for the post given his experience as a pilot, transportation policy knowledge and conservative record. In addition to his résumé, he cites his passion for transportation and forward-looking ideas.
“My focus as chairman will be on finding a long-term and sustainable solution to funding infrastructure projects, an area where I have been an outspoken leader for years,” Graves said. “I would also prioritize effectively incorporating technology into our infrastructure network like autonomous vehicles and drones. This will revolutionize how we move people and goods.”
Denham said his focus as chairman would be running committee driven by input from members up and down the dais.
“As we put together the next highway bill I will expand infrastructure investment in the United States with an independent non-partisan Infrastructure Bank, continue our work to make Amtrak run more like a business, continue to leverage federal resources to spur private sector investment, build and improve our water infrastructure and bring our air traffic control system into the 21st Century,” he said.
Graves, who was elected in 2000, has seniority on the panel, over Denham, who was elected in 2010. Both have served on the Transportation panel since their freshman year.
Both men also chair Transportation subcommittees, with Graves heading Highways and Transit and Denham in charge of Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.
One potential ding against Denham is that he led a discharge petition effort earlier this year to try to force a floor vote on a series of immigration bills against leadership’s wishes — something Steering may view unfavorably when considering the team player factor.
While the Steering Committee selects most GOP committee chairmen or ranking members, a handful are positions appointed by the speaker or minority leader.
Since it’s not yet clear who the next Republican leader will be following Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s retirement, it’s difficult to predict who that person will pick to lead the House Administration, Rules and Intelligence committees.
Only Administration Chairman Gregg Harper of Mississippi is retiring and must be replaced. There are five Republicans currently serving on the panel besides him, so it’s fair to say one of them will likely lead the committee next.
Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, the panel’s vice chairman, would seem like the most logical member to get the role based on seniority. But given the relatively few Republican women who serve in top roles in the GOP conference, Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock could also get picked.
Both Davis and Comstock face competitive re-election races, so if they were to lose then North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker is next in seniority. Walker is interested in running for a leadership position, but if he were to lose whatever race he ultimately decides to enter he could potentially be given the Administration gavel as a consolation prize.
It’s not clear whether the next speaker or minority leader will want to replace Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, who is in his sixth year as chairman but not term-limited like leaders of panels chosen by Steering, or Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, who has faced a number of controversies this past Congress related to the Russia investigation.
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