WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans retained control of the House in this week's election, but because of retirements and party-imposed term limits on committee chairmen, more than half a dozen committees will be getting new chairmen.
Among the lawmakers expected to serve as new leaders are some well-known names, including former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who is expected to take the reins of the Ways and Means Committee, and rising star Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who is the leading candidate to take over Oversight and Government Reform, a panel that has been an irritant to the Obama administration the past four years.
Under House rules, GOP members can only serve three terms as senior member of a committee, unless they are granted a waiver by the Republican Steering Committee, a group of party leaders under the wings of House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Major House committees getting new leaders next year:
With Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas term-limited, Rep. Michael Conaway of Texas is the most likely replacement. Conaway, 66, now chairs the Ethics Committee. He has been aiming for the Agriculture chairmanship for some time, helping Lucas craft the farm law this year and lobbying his fellow Republicans to support it. Like Lucas, Conaway is a strong supporter of traditional agriculture. He said he wants to do a "thoughtful, thorough review" of the food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Conaway has supported requiring cost-benefit analyses of financial regulations as part of the panel's oversight of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas is the odds-on favorite to take over the Armed Services Committee. Thornberry, 56, has served as the panel's vice chairman and has the endorsement of the current chairman, retiring Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of California. Thornberry has focused on reforming defense contracting and the Pentagon's half-trillion-dollar budget. Another round of automatic budget cuts in 2015 is certain to be an issue for the committee and its defense hawks, who would like to undo the reductions but face opposition from lawmakers more worried about deficits. Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia may challenge Thornberry.
Georgia Rep. Tom Price, 60, a bookish conservative from the Atlanta suburbs, is in line to succeed Paul Ryan as chairman of the Budget Committee. Price worked closely with Ryan in assembling prior GOP budgets and he's likely to take a similar approach this year by drafting a budget that reduces the annual deficit to zero within 10 years. An aide says Price is committed to preventing entitlement programs that benefit the elderly — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — from becoming insolvent.
Rep. Devin Nunes, 41, of California is close to Boehner and is considered the favorite for a job that is hand-picked by the speaker. Reps. Peter King of New York and Mike Pompeo of Kansas also are running. A wild card is Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, who has more seniority than the other three but currently heads the Veterans Affairs Committee. Miller has said publicly he would chair Intelligence if Boehner asks him.
Another Westerner appears set to take the helm of the Natural Resources Committee being vacated by Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington state. Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs a subcommittee overseeing public lands, has pushed for more oil and gas leases on federal land and has accused the Obama administration of using the Antiquities Act to unilaterally designate public acreage as national monuments off limits to developers. Bishop, 63, has opposed wilderness declarations and has pushed for more logging in federal forests to reduce wildfires. He also has complained that the endangered species law is being used as a tool to stifle energy development, particularly in the West.
OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM
Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah is considered the favorite to succeed term-limited Rep. Darrell Issa of California. Chaffetz faces likely challenges from Ohio Reps. Michael Turner and Jim Jordan. Chaffetz, who chairs the Oversight panel's national security subcommittee, has led the investigation into security breaches involving the Secret Service, giving him a high-profile perch. He is less confrontational than Issa and has reached out to Democrats on the panel, including ranking minority member Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
Issa has been a major antagonist of the Obama administration, leading investigations on the Internal Revenue Service, the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and other topics. In the process, Issa has alienated not just Democrats but also fellow Republicans with his confrontational and hectoring style. Chaffetz, 47, has made it clear he would do things differently. A strong conservative, he is liked by fellow Republicans and viewed as being dogged but not shrill in his committee role. He's also seen as a bridge to a younger generation.
WAYS AND MEANS
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP's nominee for vice president two years ago, has told colleagues he wants to chair the House Ways and Means Committee, succeeding the retiring Dave Camp of Michigan. The post could provide a platform for the 44-year-old Ryan to launch a possible bid for president in 2016.
He may have competition from a formidable opponent: Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas told The Associated Press in September he plans to wage a "friendly" battle with Ryan for the job. "I want to give my colleagues two good choices," Brady said. The Ways and Means Committee is one of the four most powerful in Congress, with sole authority to initiate tax bills and jurisdiction over trade, Social Security, health care and other benefit programs.
OTHER COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN
—Rep. John Kline of Minnesota is seeking to stay on as chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, but may need a waiver from House leaders. Kline, 67, has been the panel's top Republican since 2009 and its chairman since 2011. He's sought to shift more control of federal education spending to states and local school districts. He's also a big supporter of charter schools.
—Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas is expected to win another two-year term as chairman of the Financial Services Committee but may get a challenge from Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma. Lucas is term-limited as chairman of the Agriculture Committee. Hensarling, 57, is a favorite among the party's most conservative members but has been on the losing side in fights over federal flood insurance and other issues.
—Rep. Jeff Miller, 55, of Florida is seeking another term as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee but has said he would give it up if Boehner offers him the Intelligence Committee chairmanship. Miller's oversight of the Veterans Affairs Department focused a spotlight on long waits for initial medical appointments experienced by many veterans and falsified records covering them up. He co-authored the $16.3 billion VA overhaul last summer that makes it easier for veterans to get VA-paid care from outside doctors. Possible successors at the veterans panel are Reps. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, Gus Bilirakis of Florida and Phil Roe of Tennessee.
—Several other current chairmen are near-certainties to return in January. They include Hal Rogers of Kentucky at Appropriations, Michigan Rep. Fred Upton at Energy and Commerce, California's Ed Royce at Foreign Affairs, Michael McCaul of Texas at Homeland Security, Robert Goodlatte of Virginia at Judiciary and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania at Transportation.
Associated Press writers Dina Cappiello, Donna Cassata, Ken Dilanian, Kimberly Hefling, Mary Clare Jalonick, Joan Lowy, Stephen Ohlemacher, Andrew Taylor and Erica Werner contributed to this report.