House Republicans are delaying decisions on subcommittee assignments and chairmanships for next year, which could help Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy overcome challenges in his bid for speaker.
The GOP’s inner-House steering panel was scheduled to meet with nominees for the controversial committee chairs this week, but that schedule was canceled. Instead, those meetings could be postponed until January, when the panel will meet with candidates who have made unopposed bids to chair the committee.
Officially, the delay affects only three committees: Ways and Means, Budget and Homeland Security. But given that Tax Writing Ways and Means is an award assignment for more than a dozen members, this move will stop assignments for all other committees.
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“If you can’t decide who’s going to be chairman, you can’t decide who’s going to be on the committee,” said a senior GOP aide. “If there are two seats left on a committee after the chair’s decision, that doesn’t mean only two seats need to be filled. Members leave other committees for better committees; along these lines cause great confusion.”
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It is unclear how long the delay will last. After the 2016 election, House Speaker Paul Ryan waited until the new Congress took office in January 2017 to decide on committee assignments.
The delay left Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, reeling from conservative opposition for a second term as speaker. Ryan’s allies were able to use the threat that conservative opponents would deny committee assignments.
“It has an effect by leaving out the threat that if you don’t vote for someone and they become speaker, you’re going to end up in committees,” said McCarthy, who supported McCarthy but opposed Ryan in 2016. GOP Rep. “But then. also creates resentment among other members who want to give their assignments to those who oppose the speaker.”
A delay could benefit McCarthy in the same way. The California Republican is facing public opposition from five GOP lawmakers in his bid to become speaker.
The opposition is potentially problematic, given that the GOP has a narrow 222-213 majority next year and needs at least 218 votes to elect a speaker when the House meets on Jan. 3.
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One of the GOP candidates, Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, announced Tuesday that he will challenge McCarthy in the House in January for speaker.
“We will not pass up the rare opportunity to effect systemic change because challenging a Republican candidate who is the creator of the establishment status quo is inconvenient or comes with minimal risk,” he wrote. Biggs. reporter announcing his candidacy.
McCarthy isn’t sweating the challenge.
“I will bring the orator’s struggle to the field,” he said. “We’ll have 218. We’ll get there at the end of the day.”