By Jennifer Shutt and Paul M. Krawzak
Rep. Diane Black will serve as the interim chairwoman of the House Budget Committee while the outgoing chairman prepares for and undertakes the Senate confirmation process to become President-elect Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, House Republicans announced Tuesday following adoption of their rules package.
Her appointment was effective Tuesday. The decision from House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., included in the rules package, keeps Black, R-Tenn., as the leader of the panel until Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., works his way through the Senate confirmation process. After that, the House GOP Steering Committee would name a permanent Budget chairwoman or chairman.
Making Black the interim chairwoman almost guarantees she would be named the next head of the committee if Price is confirmed. She would be the first woman to head up the panel if that happens. There are just two women leading House committees in the 115th Congress — Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Ethics Committee Chairwoman Susan W. Brooks, R-Ind.
“The passage of Obamacare is the reason I ran for Congress,” Black said in a statement. “As interim Chairman for the House Budget Committee, I am ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to repeal this law that has burdened families and businesses and turn the page to a new healthcare system that lowers costs, spurs free market competition, and ultimately empowers patients — not Washington bureaucrats.”
The decision by Republicans is slightly unusual as far as committee leadership goes, but it could provide an avenue for Price to return as the House Budget chairman should he not be confirmed by the Senate.
While members generally have an easier time getting confirmed, Senate Democrats have sharply criticized Price. His previous statements on entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, have brought rebukes from several Democrats and could provide a few stumbles during his confirmation hearing.
If confirmed as the next HHS secretary, naming Black as the interim chairwoman would allow GOP leadership the option to keep her on for the remainder of the 115th Congress or name another Republican to the post. Black’s name has been on the short list for the job, since Trump announced Price as his HHS nominee.