GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts

GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts
© Greg Nash

House GOP leaders are taking the unusual step of suggesting some retiring Republicans should step down from their committee posts to make room for potential new arrivals running in special elections, multiple sources told The Hill.

Four special elections will be held before November, and top Republicans will also need to find committee assignments for Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-N.J.), who switched party affiliations after voting against impeachment last month. Van Drew was dropped from the Agriculture and Natural Resources committees when he crossed the aisle.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOvernight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 Republicans offer details on environmental proposals after Democrats roll out plan GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts MORE (R-Calif.) discussed raising the issue of committee reshuffling during a leadership meeting Tuesday, according to two sources in the room.

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A day later, McCarthy told The Hill he doesn’t have any intention of forcing members out of their committee seats, but would like to see some of them volunteer their spots as they gear up to welcome new members to the conference.

McCarthy said he has “not asked” any lawmakers to relinquish their committee seats, but noted the value of those spots given the upcoming special elections.

Talks with retiring members have been taking place this week, multiple sources familiar with the discussions told The Hill.

“That’s being discussed,” one Republican said of the requests for certain members to step down from their posts.

A senior GOP aide familiar with the talks said while it’s not a traditional move, this year has presented the conference with a unique set of circumstances.

“We have a ton of retiring members in committee spots and a lot of new members coming in and basically no committee slots left to give out,” the aide said.

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But one former GOP lawmaker said the move was very much out of the ordinary.

“Never heard of [leadership] doing that. Would be sort of surprising actually,” the former member said.

One senior Republican said “it makes sense” to open up committee posts for new members or even place vulnerable GOP lawmakers on high-profile committees to help them in November.

Encouraging members to vacate committee posts is not sitting well with some outgoing lawmakers.

“I know what my answer will be — no,” one Republican said. “I’m like, seriously? It’s just like, we’ll go ahead and discount these members right now because they’re not going to be here. It kind of pisses me off.”

More than two dozen House Republicans have said they are retiring or seeking other office this year.

A special election for the seat previously held by former Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsGOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Democrats running to replace Duncan Hunter, Chris Collins vow to support ethics package DOJ recommends sentence for former Rep. Chris Collins at 'top end' of guidelines MORE (R-N.Y.) could come as early as April 28, the same day Maryland will hold a race to succeed the late Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsGOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Pelosi taps Virginia Democrat for key post on economic panel Democratic challenger on Van Drew's party switch: 'He betrayed our community' MORE (D).

Special elections to replace former Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyGOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Ex-Tea Party lawmakers turn heads on K Street Why the Wisconsin special election could decide the 2020 presidential election MORE (R-Wis.) and former Rep. Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillGOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Pelosi announces Porter, Haaland will sit on Oversight panel Saagar Enjeti rips Sanders's decision to revoke Young Turks founder's endorsement MORE (D-Calif.) are slated for May 12.

The New York and Wisconsin races are in traditionally red districts, while the contest to replace Hill is in a swing district. The Maryland race is in a strong Democratic district.

One GOP lawmaker joked he would be willing to give up his position on a  less-desirable panel.

“You know, I haven’t heard anything on it, but I serve all three committees: Ways and Means, Budget and Ethics, and I’d be more than happy to give up the Ethics,” Rep. George HoldingGeorge Edward Bell HoldingGOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts House GOP vows to use impeachment to cut into Democratic majority Mark Walker mulling 2022 Senate bid, won't seek reelection in the House MORE (R-N.C.) said with a laugh.