WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas has been tapped to chair the House Budget Committee.
The House Republican Steering Committee chose Womack to replace Rep. Diane Black, who has stepped aside to focus of a gubernatorial run in Tennessee. The steering committee is a leadership group generally aligned with top Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan.
The budget panel's chief job is to draft an annual budget document that outlines GOP priorities and can set a fast-track path for legislation such as last month's tax overhaul.
"There's no doubt it's a huge challenge — I'm excited for the chance to lead such an important committee in pursuit of a budget resolution that will address our nation's priorities while putting America on a sustainable fiscal path," Womack said.
Republicans have sometimes struggled to produce budget plans in election years, and the challenging political environment and narrow 51-49 Senate majority only make the prospect more challenging.
Womack is a member of the Appropriations Committee, which focuses on writing agency budgets. Previous GOP chairmen such as Black and Ryan have hailed from the powerful Ways and Means panel, which has jurisdiction over taxes, Social Security and Medicare.
"I believe Steve Womack is the right man for the job of chairman of the Budget Committee," Ryan said. "Steve's experience in the House, commitment to fiscal conservatism, and relentless pursuit to safeguard taxpayer dollars make him extremely qualified to lead this important committee."
The selection must still be ratified by the full GOP conference, but that's a formality.