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 McCarthyDon't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Overnight Health Care: Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony | CDC: Children might play 'important role' in spreading COVID-19 | GOP leader wants rapid testing at Capitol GOP leader wants to make rapid testing available at Capitol 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 CollinsNY Republican Chris Jacobs wins special election to replace Chris Collins 5 things to watch in Tuesday's primaries Trump drags mild-mannered regulator into political firefight 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 CummingsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden comes to Washington to honor John Lewis Lawmakers set for tearful goodbye to John Lewis We have 100 days to make our nation right MORE (D).

Special elections to replace former Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyBottom line McCarthy blasts Pelosi's comments on Trump's weight Overnight Health Care: Trump says testing may be 'overrated' | Ousted official warns national virus plan needed | NIH begins studying drug combo touted by Trump MORE (R-Wis.) and former Rep. Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillObama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Republicans face worsening outlook in battle for House The Hill's Campaign Report: Cook shifts 20 House races toward Democrats 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 HoldingThe 14 other key races to watch on Super Tuesday GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts House GOP vows to use impeachment to cut into Democratic majority MORE (R-N.C.) said with a laugh.