By Jennifer Shutt
Rep. Diane Black announced Wednesday that she plans to step aside as House Budget chairwoman to focus on her gubernatorial campaign.
The Tennessee Republican announced that she will remain in Congress, but will give up her gavel as soon as the GOP Steering Committee picks, and the Republican Conference ratifies, her successor.
"As we enter a new era under a brand new tax law and as members begin crafting a budget for fiscal year 2019, I am confident the focus will remain on addressing unsustainable mandatory programs," Black said in a statement. "Without question, it is critical that lawmakers take real action to reverse the trajectory of our nation's growing debt. While it requires tough decisions in the short-term, the result in the long-term will secure a bright and prosperous future for generations to come."
After announcing her gubernatorial bid in August, many expected Black to step aside after the fiscal 2018 budget resolution was adopted. But she stuck around while Republicans worked on their overhaul of the tax code through the budget reconciliation process, serving as a member of the House-Senate conference committee negotiating the bill.
On Capitol Hill, the race to succeed Black on Budget is already in full swing. GOP Reps. Rob Woodall of Georgia, Steve Womack of Arkansas, and Bill Johnson of Ohio have all said they hope to be named chairman once the spot opened up.
Whoever is selected will have a tough year ahead getting a budget resolution passed, let alone using reconciliation instructions to enact deficit-cutting legislation.
Black had to work exhaustively behind the scenes this year to get instructions for $203 billion in mandatory spending reductions written into the House budget, even though they were ultimately removed from the final fiscal 2018 resolution.
How to write the fiscal 2019 budget resolution and what, if any, reconciliation instructions should be included will be a tough decision for GOP leaders to handle as they approach the midterm elections.
The fiscal 2019 budget resolution will be released, marked up, and voted on in the middle of midterm primaries next spring and in the middle of a debate over what policies Republican leaders and President Donald Trump should be prioritizing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Trump are already suggesting that cutting entitlements should take a back seat to a costly infrastructure package, betting that filling potholes and fixing bridges holds more appeal to voters than curtailing their government benefits.
The bottom line: Whoever is selected as the new Budget chairman likely faces a thankless and daunting task.
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