Boehner to King: Only Ryan Gets a Waiver

Billy House

House Speaker John Boehner is declaring that nobody but Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, fresh off his unsuccessful vice presidential bid, will be granted a waiver from internal GOP term-limit rules requiring several members to give up their chairmanships next year.

Boehner "told me he wants to limit it to Ryan,” Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King of New York said on Thursday. And Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica of Florida said Boehner told him the same thing. But Mica insists he is holding out hope: “I want to see what his final position is.”

King and Mica—like Ryan—are among senior Republicans facing the prospect of having to relinquish committee gavels next year because the party limits members to six consecutive years in the chairman's or ranking member's seat. The rule holds regardless of whether there’s been a shift in majority control of the House.

An effort to get the rule changed was defeated on Thursday when a majority of House Republicans, voting in private, rejected an amendment proposed by Georgia’s Phil Gingrey that would have given chairs more time. Gingrey’s plan would have counted every two years in the minority as only half-time toward the limit—one year—the logic being that serving as a ranking member is not the same as sitting as chairman for six years.

Although Gingrey’s amendment failed, and although Ryan is among those who have reached the limit, senior House Republican sources confirm he will be afforded a rare waiver. Continuing as Budget chairman, Ryan will play a major role as part of a special House GOP working group that will meet almost daily to work on a resolution to the so-called fiscal cliff.

On Thursday, King told National Journal that he approached Boehner to discuss his imperiled status as a chairman. That’s when he learned that although Ryan will get a waiver, no one else will. “I did ask him about it,” King said.

The House Republicans’ postelection process of choosing who will fill key committee posts in the next Congress is just a couple of weeks away (it will probably occur the week of Nov. 26). A steering committee controlled by Boehner of Ohio will decide privately whom to recommend to the full Republican Conference. At stake for aspirants can be control of huge budgets for committee staff, higher national profiles, and access to major campaign donors.

Mica confirmed that Boehner told him the same as King but suggested the issue might still be under consideration, and appears to be weighing whether to press his case before the steering committee. “I try to be a team player, but we’ll see,” Mica said.

Asked why Ryan is a special case, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said only: "The steering committee allows waivers from time to time.”

Boehner’s nobody-but-Ryan policy means someone else will soon be named to succeed King to chair Homeland Security. Among the aspirants are Reps. Candice Miller of Michigan, Mike Rogers of Alabama, and Michael McCaul of Texas. 

Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania is seeking to take over the Transportation Committee chairmanship from Mica.

Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is also barred from staying atop the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Her spokesman said that Ros-Lehtinen has not sought a waiver.

Reps. Ed Royce of California and Chris Smith of New Jersey are vying for her perch.