House Republicans passed changes to overhaul the Steering Committee by voice vote Thursday.
It's the first of what could be several changes to how the conference operates, and a sign that new Speaker Paul D. Ryan was serious when he promised to take members' complaints seriously. The biggest change to the Steering Committee — which assigns members to the standing panels of the House — is the elimination of six committee chairmen who currently have seats at the table: Pete Sessions of Rules, Jeb Hensarling of Financial Services, Kevin Brady of Ways and Means, Tom Price of Budget, Harold Rogers of Appropriations and Fred Upton of Energy and Commerce.
For the remainder of the 114th Congress, these chairmen will be replaced by six “at-large” members elected by the GOP conference. Any lawmaker will be allowed to run for an appointment, and each member will vote by secret ballot for just one candidate. The six candidates who receive the most votes will serve on Steering.
An election has not yet been scheduled.
These at-large members will serve to the end of 2016, at which time they'll be replaced by six regional representatives to better reflect the conference's geographic diversity.
Still, having members from the rank and file serve on the Steering Committee -- even for only 13 months -- will help Ryan politically as he navigates the speakership.