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Budget panel race is on, regardless of Ways and Means outcome

GOP Rep. Jason Smith wants to keep his current role if he doesn't get the nod for powerful tax-writing committee

Rep. Earl L. "Buddy" Carter, R-Ga., speaks during a press conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.
Rep. Earl L. "Buddy" Carter, R-Ga., speaks during a press conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A competition to decide who will lead Republicans on the House Budget Committee in the next Congress is underway — even if the current occupant doesn’t get the promotion he’s seeking.

Missouri Rep. Jason Smith, the current top Republican on Budget, is running for his party’s top slot on the Ways and Means Committee to replace the retiring Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

But if Smith loses that three-way race against more senior Ways and Means Republicans Vern Buchanan of Florida and Adrian Smith of Nebraska, he is expected to try to remain the top Republican on Budget.

Three other Republicans have declared bids for the Budget job: Lloyd K. Smucker of Pennsylvania, Earl L. “Buddy” Carter of Georgia and Jodey C. Arrington of Texas. 

Carter and Arrington they plan to run for the post regardless of whether Smith stays or goes. 

“Look, I’ve already committed,” Carter said in an interview Wednesday. “If Jason does not get to be Ways and Means chairman and decides to fall back, if you will, and run for Budget chair again, I’m still running.”

Carter acknowledges it’s an “awkward situation” because Smith is one of his “best friends in Congress” and he thinks he’s done a “great job” in his two years leading Republicans on the committee as ranking member. 

“But at the same time, he understands,” Carter said of Smith.  

A Carter spokesperson later added that the congressman “is confident that Jason Smith will be chair of the Ways and Means Committee and that this will be a non-issue.” 

Arrington is also running to lead the Budget panel whether Smith is or not, his office confirmed. Smucker’s office initially confirmed a similar interest, but after publication of this article an aide clarified that Smucker does not intend to challenge Smith if the latter does not leave his current job for the Ways and Means post.

Republicans hope to be in the majority next Congress, with most pundits predicting they’ll win more than the handful of seats they need to flip the House in Tuesday’s midterm elections. That would mean whoever wins the Budget race will be chair, with the ability to write a budget resolution and hold hearings and markups to spotlight their party’s spending and tax priorities.

The House Republican Steering Committee, made up primarily of GOP leaders and regional representatives, interviews candidates for committee leadership and then makes recommendations to the full conference for ratification. 

While there has been little recent precedent, House Republican Conference rules do not directly prohibit members from challenging a committee leader before they reach their six-year limit. Smith still has four years before he’d hit his limit on Budget but he is running for Ways and Means now while there’s an opening.

Once the steering panel makes its recommendations to the conference, no further nominations are in order and the larger membership can only vote to affirm or reject the panel’s nominees.

Republicans are expected to elect their top leaders in mid-November and consider and adopt their rules for the next Congress after that. The steering committee process for selecting committee leaders follows, with the conference voting on the recommendations as early as the end of November but more likely in December.

One former House GOP aide familiar with the Budget Committee said he can’t imagine that Smith would not be selected to remain in his current post if he’s passed over for the Ways and Means spot. The former aide could not recall the top Republican on the committee ever being challenged, adding, “It’s a hard case to make.”

Smucker is fifth in GOP seniority on the Budget panel and Carter is seventh. Arrington is a former member of the Budget Committee who serves on Ways and Means, the Joint Economic Committee and the Select Committee on Economic Disparity.

Like Smith and Arrington, Smucker serves on Ways and Means. Republicans have a history of selecting their Budget leader from the Ways and Means designees to the panel, including past chairs Tom Price and Paul D. Ryan.

Smith’s immediate predecessor as ranking member, Arkansas GOP Rep. Steve Womack, was an Appropriations Committee designee.

If Carter wins, he says, he would be the first member of the Energy and Commerce Committee to serve as top Republican on Budget.  

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