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Diane Black, prepping gubernatorial bid, takes victory lap

Jennifer Shutt, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON--The first woman to chair the House Budget Committee finally shepherded the fiscal 2018 resolution through her chamber Oct. 5, a traditionally thankless task that she took on after President Donald Trump tapped the former chairman, Tom Price, to be secretary of Health and Human Services.

Rep. Diane Black is now preparing to hand in her gavel after 10 months on the job, so she can focus on her campaign to become Tennessee's next Republican governor, she announced in early August.

Black still won't put a timeline on her departure date -- including whether she will stick it out through conference negotiations with the Senate.

Some fruits of her labor, however, may end up on the cutting room floor, as key elements of the House budget resolution -- including $203 billion in mandatory spending cuts over 10 years and higher defense spending than current law allows -- will likely be scrubbed from the final version.

Still, one way or another, Black's effect on this year's budget process is undeniable. After all, if not for her efforts to forge a compromise package, the budget process could have stalled out altogether.

Just getting the House version to the floor followed months of work by Black and her staff, including closed-door meetings with fellow lawmakers, negotiations with GOP leadership, a lengthy markup and a two-month delay between the committee vote and floor passage.

"This was a hard lift," Black said recently. "Some committee chairmen were right on board with us and they were ready to go. They not only took some of our ideas, but they came up with their own ideas. Other committees were more resistant and we had some work to do."

Black today remains the only Republican woman on the budget panel, not to mention its first chairwoman. She said she doesn't "get into the gender thing," but added that she does believe it's important to have women in leadership positions.

"I think it's a good role model for our gals that are coming up -- to feel comfortable," she said.

To get members to take her proposals seriously, as both a rookie committee head and a woman, Black said it was a matter of knowing the budget process and policy.

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