The U.S. Capitol on Nov. 25, 2021. (Photo by Jane Norman/States Newsroom)
WASHINGTON — U.S. House Republicans filled their top committee seats this week, choosing the leaders who will set the course for bills and issues for the new majority in the 118th Congress.
Veteran GOP lawmakers from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Arkansas, Kentucky and Missouri were among those who won the right to head up panels.
The top gavels were doled out Monday by “making sure that our committees are represented by a full swath of our membership,” Majority Leader Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, said during a GOP leadership press conference Tuesday morning after majority lawmakers began the ratification process in a closed-door meeting.
“You don’t want to wait until a bill’s on the floor to recognize that there might be an issue. You take care of those issues in committee and that’s why you want the entire conference represented, the different groups within our conference represented on the various committees, and we’re going to be working to do that,” he said.
Organization of the committees had been delayed by an historic House speaker contest in which members voted in 15 ballots over multiple days before California Republican Kevin McCarthy finally was elected.
A handful of far-right Republicans essentially blockaded the slim majority McCarthy needed while a behind-the-scenes deal was worked out to include the opposition’s priorities, which included committee representation. The GOP on Monday approved a rules package to govern the new House in a mostly party line vote. A reported separate addendum — not part of the package — has not been made public.
Scalise denied any closed-door deals for committee placements, and said “there’s no addendum.”
McCarthy “made it very clear that there were no gavels given out, there were no deals like that that were made,” Scalise said, referring to a Tuesday morning communication by the speaker with conference members.
Scalise said leadership will be “looking very closely” at Democratic appointments to the minority committee ranks.
Among the new chairs:
- Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn Thompson will lead the House Agriculture Committee, where this year the committee will be tasked with passing a massive five-year farm bill. Rep. David Scott of Georgia will be the top Democrat on the committee.
- Texas Rep. Kay Granger will become chair of the Appropriations Committee, in charge of drafting the dozen annual spending bills that currently dole out about $1.7 trillion to departments and agencies. She’ll also be in charge of implementing sweeping cuts to domestic spending that McCarthy promised conservatives in exchange for votes for speaker. Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro will be the top Democrat.
- Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, who gained C-SPAN fame during the House’s 14th ballot for speaker, when North Carolina’s Richard Hudson had to pull him back from approaching Florida’s Matt Gaetz, will lead the Armed Services Committee that drafts the annual defense policy bill. Congress has passed a bipartisan, bicameral National Defense Authorization Act for 61 consecutive years. Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat, will be ranking member.
- Texan Jodey Arrington will take over as chair of the Budget Committee that drafts and debates the annual budget resolution. The tax and spending blueprint, which is not a bill and does not become law, is supposed to balance during the 10-year window, a benchmark that will likely lead to the fiscal 2024 version proposing significant cuts. Arrington said in a written statement that “It will take a team effort across the GOP Conference and across the aisle to restore fiscal responsibility and reverse the curse.” Pennsylvania Rep. Brendan Boyle will be the top Democrat on the panel.
- Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina will take the gavel again for the renamed House Education and the Workforce Committee. She received a special waiver to chair the committee again. Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia will be the ranking Democrat on the committee.
- Washington’s Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will head the Energy and Commerce Committee, which handles health care, energy and technology policy among other issues. Rodgers served as the ranking member during the 117th Congress. Former Chair Frank Pallone, of New Jersey, will become the new ranking member.
- Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina secured the top spot on the panel that deals with banking, housing, insurance and more, Financial Services. McHenry played a lead role in negotiating McCarthy’s path to the speaker’s gavel. California Democrat Maxine Waters will continue as the top Democrat.
- Rep. Michael McCaul, of Texas, will lead the Committee on Foreign Affairs. He served as the GOP leader on the committee that holds jurisdiction over the State Department and diplomatic affairs beginning with the 116th Congress. McCaul previously chaired the Committee on Homeland Security. Outgoing committee chair Rep. Gregory Meeks, of New York, will be ranking member.
- Rep. Mark Green, of Tennessee, has been tapped to chair Homeland Security. Green sat on national security panels during the 117th Congress, including the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson will be the panel’s top Democrat.
- Ohio’s Rep. Jim Jordan, briefly a pick for the speaker’s gavel by far-right party members, will head up the sprawling and influential Judiciary Committee. Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York will continue as the top Democrat on the panel.
- Rep. Bruce Westerman, of Arkansas, will chair the Natural Resources Committee that has jurisdiction over extractive industries such as logging and mining and environmental issues including public lands and endangered species management. Westerman opposed many of the Biden administration’s moves on energy policy. Outgoing Chairman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona is expected to remain the leading Democrat on the panel.
- Kentucky’s James Comer will lead the Oversight and Reform Committee. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland will be the top Democrat on the panel. The committee is meant to be a watchdog on the rest of the federal government.
- The Science, Space and Technology Committee will be chaired by Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma. Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California will be the top Democrat on the panel.
- Rep. Roger Williams of Texas will chair the Small Business Committee. New York Democrat Nydia Velázquez will be the panel’s ranking member.
- Rep. Sam Graves, of Missouri, will go from ranking member to chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Graves previously chaired the Highways and Transit Subcommittee the last time Republicans held a House majority. Washington Democrat Rick Larsen will become the panel’s leading Democrat after the retirement of Oregon’s Peter A. DeFazio.
- The Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which will oversee the VA’s implementation of a sweeping health care and benefits law for veterans with toxic exposure, will be led by Illinois Republican Rep. Mike Bost. California Rep. Mark Takano will continue as the panel’s top Democrat.
- Rep. Jason Smith, of Missouri, will lead the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee after winning a three-way race within the House GOP to control that gavel. Smith, who was the top Republican on the Budget Committee last Congress, will be central to any changes to the tax code. Massachusetts Rep. Richard E. Neal will continue as the panel’s top Democrat.
Next steps for GOP
GOP leaders said Tuesday that the party is “unified and united” on its agenda.
“We’re just getting started,” said Steering Committee Chair Elise Stefanik of New York.
In a 221-210 vote Monday night, the majority approved a bill to rescind funding to bolster staffing at the Internal Revenue Service.
The House on Tuesday also approved the creation of two committees identified in the rules that will govern the 118th Congress.
Those committees include a Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, a subset of the Judiciary Committee, and a Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. The latter received bipartisan support.
Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher will become chair of the China select committee.
Two abortion-related bills are slated to be voted on by the House majority later this week.
— Ariana Figueroa, Jacob Fischler and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.
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