House GOP recommends new committee chairmen

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top House Republicans announced their recommendations Tuesday for the new Congress' committee chairmanships, an all-male list that includes returning Paul Ryan to the Budget panel and seven new faces to head other committees.

The leaders proposed waiving the GOP's six-year term limit for Ryan, R-Wis., to keep his chairmanship.

At that perch on the Budget Committee, Ryan became one of the Congress' highest-profile conservatives even before GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney picked him this summer as his vice presidential running mate, thanks to Ryan's tax-and-spending blueprints calling for overhauling Medicare and cutting taxes. Ryan is considered a potential 2016 GOP presidential contender.

Several other long-term committee chairs would be replaced, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who has led the Foreign Affairs Committee. Instead, the leaders recommended Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif.

Asked about the lack of women among the leaders' recommendations to head committees, Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, noted that three women have been selected to the party's leadership for next year. They include Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who will be the No. 4 House GOP leader.

Ros-Lehtinen said she did not request an exemption from the six-year term limit, saying Ryan was an exception because "he was our vice presidential candidate." As for the lack of women, she noted that Boehner had yet to pick chairs for two panels — the Ethics and House Administration committees — and said, "Don't write the headline yet."

Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., who had been hoping to become chair of the Homeland Security Committee, issued a statement congratulating Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, whom the leaders proposed to take over the panel from Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

"Our team will continue focusing on reforms that will grow our economy and create new jobs, and on holding the Obama administration accountable through aggressive oversight of the executive branch," Boehner said in a written statement. "The House of Representatives is an outpost in Democratic-controlled Washington for the priorities of the American people, and I have every confidence that the chairmen selected today are up to the task of translating those priorities into solutions Americans are counting on to get our economy moving again."

Another notable change was Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, a member of the GOP leadership who would replace Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., atop the House Financial Services Committee.

The recommendations are made by the 34-member House Republican Steering Committee, which consists of Boehner, other GOP leaders, some committee chairs and other lawmakers representing geographic regions and the freshmen and sophomore classes of House Republicans.

The leaders' recommendations are scheduled to be voted on Wednesday by all House Republicans. Traditionally, challenges to the leaders' suggested chairmanships are rare and none are expected on Wednesday.

"The Steering Committee grants waivers from time to time," Steel said when asked why the leaders want to exempt Ryan from the six-year term limit on his Budget chairmanship post.

In other changes, Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., would replace Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, atop the Judiciary Committee. Smith would take over the Science, Space and Technology panel from Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas. And Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., would head the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, now headed by Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, will head the Rules Committee instead of Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., who is retiring. That job is made by appointment by the speaker and is not subject to approval by the rest of the House GOP.