Race for RSC chairmanship heats up

The race to become the next chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) in the House is heating up.

Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) has circulated a PowerPoint presentation and video production laying out his argument to succeed outgoing RSC Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) next year.

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In the presentation he sent to colleagues late Wednesday — titled “RSC 2.0: Cast a Vision. Build Consensus. Achieve Results” — Graves ticks off action items that include “holding RSC markups of major policy initiatives” and “listening sessions on major legislation to allow all members to influence the solutions RSC ultimately puts forward.”

The video that accompanies the slideshow features Graves discussing his reasons for seeking the role as the head of the “conservative heart and soul” of Republicans in the House.

Images of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln flash on the screen as Graves intones, “we will not sway, if we remain anchored and unified around our core principles.”

“Strong political winds are always blowing from the left,” Graves says as headshots of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) pop up on the video screen. 

Graves then lists off the RSC’s “core principles: adherence to the Constitution, lessening the tax burden, reducing the size of government, promoting personal responsibility and providing liberty and justice for all.”

The sophomore lawmaker earned full backing of the conservative coalition’s “Founding Members,” earlier this fall — much to the dismay of his rival for the job, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). 

The RSC, which is expected to have as many as 165 members next Congress, is the largest bloc of conservative votes in the GOP conference. 

Graves was ranked as one of the top 12 thorns in House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) side during the 112th Congress for casting votes against his party on items such as the original GOP Budget Control Act (BCA) — which barely passed the House, with 218 GOP votes — and end-of-year appropriations bills.  

Scalise, though conservative, has a less defiant voting record, supporting Boehner on the BCA and other funding bills, such as the so-called minibus last fall, which 101 House Republicans voted against. 

Scalise was head of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s recruitment effort this election cycle and says he has a “strong base of support” in his bid to head the RSC. 

Despite the unanimous support of RSC Founders for Graves, Scalise believes the wind is at his back in the race. He has made an effort to talk to every member of the committee ahead of next Thursday’s election for chairman. 

Touting his record of “results, passing legislation” such as the measure to eliminate executive branch “czars,” Scalise told The Hill that “at the end of the day most of the members of RSC want to see more conservative policy passing out of the House — and we have the ability to do that."

Historically, the contender with the backing of the RSC Founding Members — currently made up of GOP Reps. Jordan, Sam Johnson (Texas), Dan Burton (Ind.), Sue Myrick (N.C.), Mike Pence (Ind.), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Tom Price (Ga.) — wins the race for chairman.

However, Hensarling, a former RSC chairman, bucked the trend when he triumphed over Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), who had the Founders backing. 

Burton, Myrick and Pence are leaving the House at the end of the 112th Congress; Burton and Myrick are retiring, and Pence was elected as the next governor of Indiana.

The RSC will vote via secret ballot for their leadership on Nov. 15th. Until then, the contenders will be reaching out for support.