Contradicting most lame duck sessions following elections, House lawmakers will not be receiving their committee assignments until next year when the new Congress convenes. Speaker Ryan, along with the Steering Committee he leads, has decided to delay committee assignments until January 2017.
Several reasons have led to the delay (and some other explanations have been mumbled around the Republican caucus). The House calendar set by GOP leaders only gave members four legislative days to work between Election Day and Thanksgiving – allowing hardly any time to complete the arduous task of doling out assignments for each and every member. Also, a successful push by rank-and-file members to include more regional members on the Steering Committee has led to a lag in the committee’s schedule.
However, some Republican representatives believe more sinister reasons are at play. They are suggesting Speaker Ryan and his loyalists on the Steering Committee may be delaying assignments until after the GOP caucus votes for Speaker – an election Paul Ryan is expected to sail through. This would allow Ryan to dole out coveted assignments based on loyalty.
“I would hope we could put people where they could best be used to further the 30,000-foot interest of the country,” Rep. Dave Brat said, “and I certainly hope that we are not getting anywhere near identifying committee roles as political rewards,” added Brat, who is a member of the Freedom Caucus and did not back Ryan for Speaker last year.
Another Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Matt Salmon, said he’s baffled by the decision to wait until after the House votes for Speaker. “If they want to hit ground running, it would seem appointments would be made as quickly as possible,” the Arizona Republican added. “The Speaker has gone to great pains to signal he will operate on meritocracy rather than reward partisan hacks for complete loyalty. This doesn’t seem to fit Paul’s leadership style.”
Committee assignments are always an anticipated event for lawmakers. Every member has their own area of interest and desire to be on the committee of their choosing. Also, some committees are considered more powerful and prestigious than others. Most members have to obtain tenure in Congress before being placed in powerful committees such as the House Rules Committee, for example.
However some on the Freedom Caucus may be feeling, there is no concerted effort by the caucus to oust the current speaker. After handedly fending off a primary challenge of his own, leading the House GOP to an impressive performance on Election Day, and agreeing to rule changes requested by rank-and-file members, Ryan has seemingly kept his members happy with his leadership.