Bill Johnson seeks top GOP slot on House Budget panel

The Ohio representative currently serves in the unofficial position of ‘vice ranking member‘ on the committee

Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, is vying to become the top Republican on the House Budget Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, is vying to become the top Republican on the House Budget Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 13, 2020 at 4:21pm

Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio is officially in the running to succeed Steve Womack of Arkansas as the top Republican on the House Budget Committee in the 117th Congress.

Johnson, an Air Force veteran and former information technology business executive first elected in 2010, currently serves in the unofficial position of “vice ranking member” on the Budget Committee.

Johnson said in a statement that he’s talked with Womack about taking over the ranking member position — or chairmanship, if Republicans retake the House. Johnson claimed he’s secured support from Womack as well as other “influential House Republicans.” 

“I do plan to make my case to House Republican Leadership and our Steering Committee to be the next top Republican on the Budget Committee in January,” Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson could have some competition for the slot, however, as Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri isn’t ruling out a bid. Smith is next in seniority on the panel after Johnson.

“There will be a time to talk about Republican chairmanships in the coming months, not a handful of days from the most important election of our lifetime,” a spokesperson for Smith said.

Womack is stepping down from his Budget post because he’s taking over for Tom Graves of Georgia as the top Republican on the Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee. House Republican Conference rules require a waiver to serve in both roles, and Womack won’t seek a waiver to do so, according to his staff.

Womack hasn’t had much to do on the Budget Committee since taking over for former Tennessee GOP Rep. Diane Black, who stepped down in early 2018 to focus on an ultimately unsuccessful gubernatorial bid.

The committee marked up a budget resolution two years ago, but House GOP leaders never brought it to the floor. Under Democratic control since 2019, the panel hasn’t even introduced a budget resolution, focusing instead on lifting austere discretionary spending caps imposed under a 2011 deficit reduction law. 

Those caps expire after this fiscal year, putting the Budget committees back in focus to try to come up with a budget blueprint to provide an enforceable spending cap.

Also, if Democrats sweep in November, the budget reconciliation process, which gives the majority party the ability to pass sweeping fiscal policy changes with a simple majority Senate vote, could once again be front and center.

That’s the process Democrats used to enact the 2010 health care law, and which Republicans used for their 2017 tax overhaul. Neither passed with any votes from the minority party.