Who will replace Chaffetz on Oversight?

Greg Nash

Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Utah) surprise announcement on Wednesday that he will not run for reelection in 2018 creates an opening on the powerful House Oversight Committee.

Chaffetz is in his second term as chairman of the committee, which has subpoena power. He won the gavel in 2014, triumphing in a four-way race.

Under House GOP rules, Chaffetz could have kept the Oversight gavel until 2020, when he would have reached the three-term limit. 

Chaffetz instead announced he wouldn’t be on the ballot for any office in 2018, though he left the door open to running again for public office in the future, such as Utah governor in 2020.

Assuming Republicans keep their House majority in next year’s midterm elections, a race to succeed Chaffetz wouldn’t start in full force until 2018. If Democrats were to win the House, the panel’s current ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), would be a shoo-in for the chairmanship.   

Two of Chaffetz’s rivals in the 2014 race, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and former Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), no longer serve on the Oversight Committee. 

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) lost to Chaffetz in 2014 and remains one of the Oversight Committee’s most senior members. He chairs an Oversight subcommittee on health care, benefits and administrative rules.

But he is also one of the key leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative hardliners that’s frequently clashed with GOP leaders. Members of the Freedom Caucus most recently withheld support for the GOP legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare, which contributed to leaders canceling a vote.

Since GOP leaders hold the most sway on the House Steering Committee, which determines lawmaker committee assignments, it could be tough for Jordan to win the Oversight gavel, one of the most high-profile chairmanships in Congress. 

No lawmakers were ready to say Wednesday if they were interested in running for the post. 

A spokesman for Jordan pointed to the lawmaker’s tweets about Chaffetz’s departure:

Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) has the most seniority of any other Republican on the committee, but has a relatively low profile. 

Next in line is Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who preceded Chaffetz as chairman with a rocky and controversial tenure. Issa nowadays is one of the GOP’s most endangered incumbents after barely winning reelection in 2016 in a district carried by Hillary Clinton.  

The next five most senior Republicans on Oversight are all members of the Freedom Caucus: Jordan and Reps. Mark Sanford (S.C.), Justin Amash (Mich.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.) and Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.). Like Jordan, they could all have trouble getting enough votes from the Steering Committee. 

Sanford has shown a willingness to criticize President Trump, most prominently by calling for him to release his tax returns. That would likely be too much of a wildcard for GOP leaders, who have so far steered clear of investigating Trump’s finances or business dealings.

Then there’s Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who could be the most plausible contender to succeed Chaffetz. Even though he’s eighth in seniority, Gowdy has experience in the spotlight, having chaired the select committee that investigated the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.  

A spokeswoman for Gowdy didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

The Benghazi committee’s probe helped uncover Clinton’s use of a private server while serving as secretary of State, an issue that dogged her campaign.

The Benghazi panel wrapped up its two-and-a-half year investigation last December, a few weeks after Clinton lost the White House to Trump.

Tags Hillary Clinton Jason Chaffetz Justin Amash Paul Gosar Trey Gowdy
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