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Womack seeks GOP support for House budget panel post

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Photographs by Ben Goff

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) is shown in this April 20, 2017 photo.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Steve Womack wants to be the next chairman of the House Budget Committee and is asking Republican leaders in Congress to support him.

The current chairman, U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., announced last month that she's entering the race for Tennessee governor. Colleagues expect that she'll soon step aside as chairman.

Four unnamed senior Republicans say Womack is considered the front-runner, according to Politico, a Washington-based political publication.

The Republican from Rogers "has a good reputation with leadership and conservatives alike," Politico stated.

Jockeying for the post has already begun.

"I have expressed an interest in finishing this Congress as chairman of budget. I have made that expression known with the leadership and I have quietly worked members of the [House] Steering Committee who are ultimately the decision-makers in making my case," Womack said in an interview.

The committee includes House Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the rest of the Republican leadership; they will select Black's replacement.

Womack said his experience as a small-business owner and a longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee makes him well-suited for the post.

His time at Rogers City Hall is also a plus, he said.

"I think I have a unique background, having been a mayor for 12 years and dealing with budgets," he said.

He quickly noted that the budget in Rogers had "a few less zeros at the end of it" than the budgets in Washington, D.C.

"My feedback from the steering committee members has been very positive. The response from leadership has been very positive," he said.

If Black, as anticipated, steps aside, "I think we have a very good shot at picking up the gavel," he said.

The early feedback from fellow congressmen is encouraging thus far, he said.

"Talk is cheap right now. It's not the kind of thing you can take to the bank, but it is a good sign early on and we like our chances," he said. "Speaker Ryan called me about the issue and gave me a lot of encouragement. I feel pretty good about my chances."

If Womack is selected, he doesn't plan to keep the post indefinitely.

That's because another member, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., recently announced that he won't seek re-election in 2018.

Dent's departure means there'll be an opportunity for someone new to serve as chairman of one of the Appropriations Committee's subcommittees.

The slots are filled on the basis of seniority. Womack, who has served in the House since 2011, is poised to fill the vacancy if he is re-elected and Republicans remain in the majority in the House.

"I'm the next guy up. There's no question about that," he said.

As chairman of one of the appropriations subcommittees, "you get the chance to write the spending bill in that particular subject matter," he noted.

As budget committee chairman, Womack would be able to help set the overall budget framework and play a key role in moving tax-overhaul legislation, he said.

James Thurber, a professor of government at American University, said it's good to lead the budget committee but better to wield an appropriations subcommittee gavel.

"That is much more important. A subcommittee chair of Appropriations is as powerful as a full committee chair of most of the authorizing committees," he said.

The Appropriations Committee "has much more power," he added.

Metro on 09/14/2017

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