Texas GOP Rep. Jodey C. Arrington is poised to become the next House Budget chair, after the Republican Steering Committee recommended him for the post Monday.
The full Republican Conference still has to ratify the steering panel’s recommendation, which could come as soon as Tuesday, but that’s typically just a formality.
Arrington edged out GOP Reps. Lloyd K. Smucker of Pennsylvania and Earl L. “Buddy” Carter of Georgia for the Budget role, which was open after the previous top Republican on the panel, Missouri Rep. Jason Smith, won the steering panel’s recommendation to become the next Ways and Means chair.
Arrington, 50, has stressed the need to combine incentives to encourage economic growth with slowing spending, especially in mandatory programs such as Social Security and Medicare where most of the spending growth is occurring.
His emphasis on restructuring entitlement programs to prevent cuts to those programs when their trust funds are exhausted is not shared by all House Republicans. Some in the GOP are opposed to making any cuts to Social Security or Medicare benefits.
“Balancing our budget will require an unusual display of political will and fiscal constraint, but it must be paired with commonsense strategies that incentivize business investment, job creation and work,” Arrington wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Examiner earlier this month.
Arrington, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, advocates changing the tax system to promote economic growth, getting rid of “burdensome” regulations and providing incentives for the unemployed to work.
He has been an early advocate of reimposing the discretionary spending caps that expired in fiscal 2021. He sponsored legislation in the last Congress to limit spending growth to 2 percent a year for the next decade, which he said would save about $500 billion. His legislation would leave it up to Congress to decide the split between defense and nondefense.
Last week, House Republicans took steps toward spending limits similar to those Arrington proposed. As part of an agreement reached to facilitate the election of Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as speaker, GOP leaders agreed to cap fiscal 2024 spending at fiscal 2022 levels. That would amount to a $130 billion, or 8 percent, cut from fiscal 2023 levels in the recently enacted omnibus spending law.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus who had opposed McCarthy also agreed to advance a fiscal 2024 budget resolution that would balance in 10 years. The idea is to model it after a proposal from former President Donald Trump’s budget director, Russ Vought, to cut some $10 trillion in projected spending and $3.3 trillion in taxes over the next decade.
Talking with reporters after his presentation to the Steering Committee, Arrington said he’s “excited” about the budget-related rules and commitments made during the negotiations to secure the votes for McCarthy’s speaker bid.
“I think they’re going to … prove helpful, and keeping the spending down and making sure that we pay for things and we don’t use gimmicks,” Arrington said.
Those commitments would make the Budget chairman’s job easier if Republicans are on the same page. But some have already signaled discomfort with the level of spending cuts, and tough decisions still need to be made about how much of the fiscal 2024 discretionary spending cuts come from defense versus nondefense accounts.
His first step as Budget chairman, Arrington said, would be to “sit down and make sure I understand the vision of the leadership starting with the speaker and then meet with the leadership team — that is the authorizing chairmen and the appropriators and … then continue to build out from there,” including meeting with the Budget Committee.
Bipartisan track record
Arrington has taken a leading role in budget conversations, serving as a member of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Reform, a bipartisan, bicameral panel formed as part of a 2018 budget deal.
The group was unsuccessful in getting Congress to enact proposed budget changes, but Arrington said they came up with “substantive and meaningful ideas” to fix a “broken” budget process.
He has a track record of working across the aisle. He and Scott Peters, D-Calif., founded the bipartisan “30 for 30” caucus to work on proposals to slow the rising debt.
In an interview last year, Arrington said as Budget chairman his approach would be “empowering members” rather than imposing his ideas on them.
Prior to winning his seat in Congress in 2016, Arrington served as a special assistant to President George W. Bush, later working as chief of staff to the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., as a vice chancellor in the Texas Tech University System, and as president of a health care company.
Arrington is on board with other House Republicans who want to use the need to raise the debt limit as leverage to pass legislation that would slow the growth of the debt.
Among the possibilities, he said, is legislation he introduced with Peters in the last Congress to make it easier to suspend the debt limit if Congress adopted a budget resolution that envisioned reducing debt as a share of the economy, or if the president proposed legislation to reduce the debt.
With Congress divided, however, there is little chance the House and Senate would agree on a budget resolution.
Arrington also has floated options such as creating a bipartisan debt commission or reimposing the statutory discretionary spending caps.
Arrington during his steering panel presentation wore his “lucky cotton tie” displaying the crop, which he said relates to his home of Lubbock, Texas, “the largest cotton patch in the world.”
He said the tie reminds him of “all the West Texans who sent me up here with the expectation that I will do something real.”
“When I’m wearing the cotton tie, watch out,” he said.