By Patrick OConnor - 12/07/06 12:00 AM EST
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) triumphed yesterday in his bid to chair the conservative Republican Study Committee during the 110th Congress, beating Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) 57-42.
Hensarling, an outspoken second-term conservative who has faced off with Republican leaders on budget and spending issues, won the chairmanship despite Tiahrt’s nomination by the group’s three remaining founders.
With Republicans assuming the minority next year, Hensarling hinted that the RSC’s role in the conference would shift somewhat, from that of agitator in the majority to educator in the minority.
“Public squabbles are a luxury of the majority,” Hensarling said afterward.
Tiahrt, an appropriator, was viewed by many as the leadership-backed candidate whose job it would be to rein in upstarts on the committee, but Hensarling and the Kansas Republican both dismissed that suggestion yesterday.
“The only leadership guy who got involved is [Chief Deputy Whip] Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and he backed my opponent,” Tiahrt said before the election. “I think that’s an unfair charge.”
Hensarling suggested that the role of the RSC and its members in the minority would be to educate all members of the party on conservative principles as leaders present an alternative to the Democratic agenda.
The newly elected chairman pledged to take a stand, though, if he believes the party is moving away from core conservative principles.
Hensarling and a core group of outspoken RSC members, including Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the outgoing chairman, led public showdowns with the White House, the Republican leadership and lawmakers on the Appropriations panel over a series of budget and spending issues during the 109th Congress.
Before the race, many RSC members believed the race would be tight and that attendance would be a crucial determining factor. Indeed, the turnout for yesterday’s election was higher than expected, with nominal members who rarely attend meetings, such as Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), showing up to cast their vote.
Aides to RSC staff members were barred from the Budget Committee hearing room where the election took place; they crowded the Cannon House Office Building hallway until their bosses emerged.
Hensarling’s team entered the room yesterday believing it had the support of 56 RSC members, one less than his final tally, an aide said afterward. Tiahrt expressed similar confidence early yesterday morning.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a fellow budget hawk, nominated Hensarling in the closed-door session, with Pence and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) delivering seconding speeches.
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), one of the group’s original founders who has close ties to Minority Leader-elect John Boehner (R-Ohio), nominated Tiahrt, with Reps. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) and Cathy McMorris (R-Wash.) giving his seconding speeches.
Before the election, Johnson highlighted Tiahrt’s service on the Appropriations panel and his knowledge of the leadership as his principle qualifications for the job.
Afterward, Hensarling thanked Tiahrt for running and said he would start sitting down with members of the committee as soon as possible to learn what issues they would like the committee to highlight over the next two years.
Asked about his plans after the race, Hensarling joked that he would drink a Diet Dr. Pepper and call his wife, Melissa.
“It’s a humbling experience to be asked to lead the Republican Study Committee,” he said.