WASHINGTON — If Capitol Hill is nothing but a constant game of musical chairs, then Georgia’s Rob Woodall might have just caught his lucky break.
Thanks to a game of political dominoes, the Lawrenceville Republican has a good shot at becoming the chairman of the House Budget Committee this fall.
Let us explain.
House Republicans tend to stick to seniority when it comes to selecting who will lead committees. Woodall is currently the sixth most senior member on the panel.
The current committee chairwoman, Diane Black, announced Wednesday she plans to run for Tennessee governor. Under a House Republican rule that bars lawmakers from leading committees while they’re running for another office, she’ll eventually need to step down or seek a waiver.
Likewise, the panel’s No. 2 Republican, Todd Rokita, is said to be preparing a bid for Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat.
Moving down the list, the next two Republicans, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, are already chairmen of subcommittees on the Appropriations Committee. They’d have to agree to give up those powerful perches to assume the House Budget chairmanship, possible but not all that likely.
That leaves California Republican Tom McClintock and Woodall. McClintock is technically more senior, yes, but the former Freedom Caucus member has voted against his share of budget and government spending bills over the years that party leaders had been pushing. That could very well come back to hurt him as he looks to appeal to those very leaders who help control the House Steering Committee, which selects chairmen.
Woodall, on the other hand, has been a reliable vote for Republican leaders. He already has a slot on the House Rules Committee, which is generally reserved for the lawmakers leaders favor, and he’s certainly a budget wonk. He’s known for detailed speeches on the topic on the House floor, and he previously led a budget task force through the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative House lawmakers.
The four-term lawmaker mentioned being in line for the Budget and Rules committee chairmanships and “moving the needle” for his constituents when Insider asked him about his 7th District reelection bid earlier this summer.
“There is going to come a time where leaving and turning this over to the next generation is going to be the right thing to do, but 2018 is not going to be that time,” he said in June.
After the news broke about Black’s gubernatorial bid, Woodall’s team was cautious about overstepping. But they also didn’t deny interest in the position.
“Republican Conference Rules don’t allow a Member to seek higher office and remain as chairman, but if there was ever a case to be made for a waiver, Diane would be it, and I would support it,” Woodall said in a statement. “Chairwoman Black has been tireless in her pursuit of the FY2018 budget, and I remain committed to standing with her until it’s done.”
If he is indeed selected to lead the committee, Woodall would become the panel’s second Georgia chairman in less than a year (and the only Georgia lawmaker to run a committee in the House). Tom Price led the Budget Committee for two years until he was sworn in as secretary of Health and Human Services in January.
The panel’s prestige has undoubtedly declined as stalemates have come to grip the annual budget process. But the Budget chairmanship has been a launching pad for countless political careers, including Price, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
At least two more junior Republicans have already expressed interest in the position.
The committee is currently front and center as Ryan looks to tee up a tax overhaul later this year. But intraparty disagreements over national defense spending and entitlement programs have thrown things into limbo.