An eventful start to the 118th Congress
After a raucous multi-day debate that ended with Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) being elected Speaker on the 15th ballot early Saturday morning, House Republicans have moved quickly to fill out the leadership positions for the new Congress. Each of the Committees Chairs were selected by the Republican Steering Committee, which will be ratified by the full Republican Conference and then by a vote of the whole House, but these votes are usually pro forma with Members endorsing the recommendations of each party’s leadership.
Of particular note, Dr. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) was selected to be Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, defeating fellow Committee Member Tim Wahlberg (R-MI). Dr. Foxx needed a waiver under House Republican rules to lead the Committee once again, as she already had served for six years in a leadership role on the Committee. However, in our conversations with Dr. Foxx over the past year, she was confident she would ultimately receive such a waiver, and it appears she will be the only House Republican Chair to receive one. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) will continue as the Democratic lead on the Committee. The full roster of Committee Members has yet to be announced.
In addition, Jason Smith (R-MO) won a tightly contested three-way race to become Chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which oversees a broad range of tax and social services policies, including TANF and Unemployment Insurance programming. Smith is a close ally of Speaker McCarthy and became the youngest Republican Chair in the Committee’s history. He most recently served as the lead Republican on the Budget Committee and brings a more combative style of leadership, with a populist message and a strong focus on oversight.
The Republican Steering Committee also announced ten new Republican Members on Ways and Means, with the full roster still TBD:
- Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.)
- Rep. Claudia Tenney (N.Y.)
- Rep. Greg Steube (Fla.)
- Rep. Randy Feenstra (Iowa)
- Rep. Michelle Fischbach (Minn.)
- Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.)
- Rep. Blake Moore (Utah)
- Rep. Michelle Steel (Calif.)
- Rep. Beth Van Duyne (Texas)
- Rep. Mike Carey (Ohio)
House Republicans also choose Appropriations Subcommittee Chairs
Appropriations Chair Kay Granger (R-TX) is expected to propose a major realignment of the panel’s twelve subcommittee gavels. Five of the lead Republicans sought waivers to chair their specific subcommittees for one additional term. However, we are hearing Granger is unlikely to grant these requests, other than for one chair who previously served only a partial term.
While still subject to change, Granger is expected to propose the following lineup of Subcommittee Chairs when she meets with the Republican Steering Committee next week:
- Agriculture — Andy Harris, R-MD.
- Commerce-Justice-Science — Harold Rogers, R-KY.
- Defense — Ken Calvert, R-Calif.
- Energy-Water — Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.
- Financial Services — Steve Womack, R-Ark.
- Homeland Security — David Joyce, R-Ohio.
- Interior-Environment — Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.
- Labor-HHS-Education — Robert Aderholt, R-Ala.
- Legislative Branch — Mark Amodei, R-Nev.
- Military Construction-VA — John Carter R-TX.
- State-Foreign Operations — Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.
- Transportation-HUD — Tom Cole, R-Okla.
In addition, ten new Republican Members were selected to serve on the Appropriations Committee this Congress:
- Rep. Michael Cloud (Texas)
- Rep. Michael Guest (Miss.)
- Rep. Ryan Zinke (Mont.)
- Rep. Stephanie Bice (Okla.)
- Rep. Jerry Carl (Ala.)
- Rep. Andrew Clyde (Ga.).
- Rep. Jake Ellzey (Texas)
- Rep. Scott Franklin (Fla.)
- Rep. Jake LaTurner (Kan.)
- Rep. Juan Ciscomani (Ariz.)
Rob Aderholt (R-AL) is Granger’s choice to chair the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, which allocates funding for most education and labor programming. He was selected over Tom Cole (R-OK) who sought a waiver to continue to be the Republican lead, but is term-limited. Aderholt is a veteran appropriator, having led two other subcommittees, but has not served on the Labor-HHS Subcommittee. He is an ally of Speaker McCarthy and a pragmatic conservative who has a long history of opposing abortion.
House Republicans pledge to reduce discretionary spending
The Appropriations Committee will be central to House Republicans’ pledge to reduce overall FY 24 total discretionary spending back to FY 22 enacted levels — which would equate to a 10% overall cut to defense-related funding and an 8% cut to domestic programming.
However, few Republicans are likely to agree to defense-related cuts, which could mean even greater overall reductions to domestic programs – as much as an 18% cut by House Appropriations Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro’s calculation. The Labor-HHS Subcommittee is the largest of the Appropriations Subcommittees focused on domestic programming and is likely to be a target for significant reductions.
Consideration of appropriations bills will likely be more complicated in the House this year, as the leadership has pledged that each of the twelve bills will be debated on the floor individually, and any “Omnibus” Appropriations proposal from the Senate combining multiple bills to expedite their passage will be rejected out of hand. As a result, the annual appropriations process may slow considerably.
On the Senate side, there is new leadership on both sides of the aisle of the Appropriations Committee, with Patty Murray (D-WA) becoming the new Chair and Susan Collins (R-ME) its Ranking Member. Murray and Collins issued a joint statement this week declaring they will work in a bipartisan fashion to enact appropriations bills.
However, the House’s desire for significant budget reductions sets up a difficult dynamic with a Democratic-led Senate and Administration, which are likely to oppose overall cuts to discretionary spending, making it much more challenging to successfully enact FY 24 appropriations bills and increasing the likelihood of a year-long Continuing Resolution.
Senate Committees likely to be set in late January
While the Chairs and Ranking Members of key Senate Committees have already been announced, the Senate is in recess until January 23rd. Leadership negotiations are underway between parties over committee sizes and ratios and the parties’ committee assignments. Shortly after returning from recess, we expect a Senate resolution that will formalize committee parameters and membership.
*Thank you to Capital Hill Partners for their contribution to this update. https://www.caphillpartners.com/