Check the box! There will be a Republican woman who will be chairing a full House committee next session, after all.
Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan earlier this week lost out to Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, for the coveted Homeland Security gavel, a decision made by a GOP steering committee controlled by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
But on Friday, Boehner announced that Miller will chair the House Administration Committee, which may not be as desirable a post but includes among its jurisdiction oversight of the federal election process. Miller becomes the fourth Michigander leading a full committee, joining Reps. Fred Upton on Energy and Commerce, Dave Camp on Ways and Means, and Mike Rogers on Intelligence.
Miller’s losing bid earlier this week in the contest for Homeland Security had caused a stir, because it signaled there might not be any women among the 113th Congress’s 21 House committee chairs. But yet to be announced were still two of the 21 total chairs, for Administration and Ethics. (Republicans have at least picked several women for posts in House GOP conference leadership, topped by Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington as conference chairwoman.)
But the prospect of no women heading full committees was even more puzzling given all the talk among Republicans that they needed to project a more diverse image — and given that women voted Democratic by double-digit margins in the presidential contest and generic congressional ballots on Nov. 6.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., has been serving as a committee chairwoman, on Foreign Affairs. But she isn’t keeping that committee’s gavel next year because she is term-limited.
It is uncertain whether now giving Miller the top seat on the Committee on House Administration may soften the negative perceptions of a white-male-dominated roster of Republican House committee chairmen, particularly when contrasted with what will be a more diverse roster in terms of gender and race among Democratic ranking members.
The House Administration Committee has jurisdiction over the federal election procedures, and also is charged with managing the budget authorizations for House committees and members’ offices and overseeing traditional franking and more modern ways for members to engage with constituents. It works closely with Capitol Police as an overseer of security on the House side of the Capitol.
In a statement on Friday, Miller said, “I am both humbled and honored by the confidence Speaker Boehner has shown in me to take on the Chairmanship of the Committee on House Administration.”
“This committee has the responsibility to ensure that the House runs in an effective and efficient manner, which is vital as we work to meet the many challenges facing this great nation,” she said. “Most importantly, this committee has jurisdiction over the federal election process, and I am absolutely committed to making certain that we enact rules to ensure this nation continues to have open, free, and fair elections.”
There was still no word as of Friday afternoon on who will lead the Ethics Committee — a post that many lawmakers do not want given its role in investigating colleagues’ activities.