Black reported in line to become U.S. House Budget Committee chair

U.S. Rep. Diane Black is the leading candidate to chair the House Budget Committee, likely leap-frogging more senior panel members to become the first woman to head the high-profile panel, according to Politico (quoting “Republican leadership sources”).

The Tennessee Republican, entering her fourth term, would replace current Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Health and Human Services Department. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), who is also vying for the post, would likely remain vice chairman, the sources said.

As chairwoman, Black would find herself at center stage next year for the GOP’s controversial efforts to repeal Obamacare and potentially approve a massive tax reform package. Republicans are planning to use a budget procedure known as reconciliation to bypass the Senate’s typical 60-vote threshold and jam through GOP bills on a party-line vote.

Republicans will begin that process as early as next week, when they return to Capitol Hill and begin the process of passing a fiscal 2017 budget with instructions to dismantle President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

It is unclear when Price will vacate the position. Senate confirmation hearings for Price have not yet been scheduled.

The Republican Steering Committee, which votes on chairmanships, is expected to schedule a vote for the Budget Committee position as soon as Price resigns from Congress. Price could, theoretically, step down from his current chairmanship position before he is confirmed as HHS secretary, triggering the budget committee vote for his replacement.

…Black’s office declined to comment. A spokesman for Rokita said the GOP lawmaker would back Black, “his friend,” for the post.

Note: Black,66, is reportedly considering a run for governor in 2018. Her elevation to budget chair, presumably, might make the option of staying in Congress more appealing.

UPDATE/NOTE: The Tennessean reported Friday finding “a source with knowledge of the talks” who also says Black is the leading candidate for the chairmanship. Further:

If Black were to elevate to that role, Tennessee’s delegation would further boost its clout in Washington. Sen. Bob Corker chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Sen. Lamar Alexander chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and Rep. Phil Roe now chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, having been appointed earlier this month.

…Some Republican candidates who were once tepid about entering the (2018 gubernatorial) fray could suddenly become rejuvenated about their effort to vie for the party’s nomination if they believe Black’s ascension would eliminate her from the race.

“This will not affect her decision to run for governor,” another source close to Black told The Tennessean on Friday.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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