GOP rules governing committee term limits were adopted by House Republicans in time for the 104th Congress. Senate Republicans adopted the language nearly verbatim shortly after that. In 2001, Senate Republicans adopted a clarification to reflect that tenure in the minority does not count against the term limit for committee chairs.
“Time served as Ranking Member shall not be counted as time served as chairman,” reads the clarification in the Republican Conference rules for the Senate, according to the Congressional Deskbook [Section 7.58].
“Rule ambiguity could prompt GOP chairman squabble,” by Sara Jerome, Hillicon Valley, October 25, 2010
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