Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition

Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition
© Greg Nash

Multiple Republican lawmakers are throwing their hats in ring for the top GOP spot on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, a powerful position that will soon be vacant with the departure of Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsMeadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House Meadows set to resign from Congress as he moves to White House Mnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus MORE (R-N.C.).

Top contenders to succeed Meadows, who will be President TrumpDonald John TrumpCuomo grilled by brother about running for president: 'No. no' Maxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: 'Stop congratulating yourself! You're a failure' Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE’s new White House chief of staff, include Reps. James ComerJames (Jamie) R. ComerTop GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition The biggest political upsets of the decade New hemp trade group presses lawmakers on immigration reform, regs MORE (Ky.) and Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceTop GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition House Republicans press Trump officials on plans to contain coronavirus at border Loeffler works to gain traction with conservatives amid Collins primary bid MORE (Ga.), as well as freshmen Reps. Kelly Armstrong (N.D.) and Mark GreenMark GreenBlunting a global pandemic: An open memo to the new head of USAID Trump designates new acting head of USAID The risk of fracture: Coronavirus in the Middle East MORE (Tenn.).

Rep. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington Conservative lawmakers tell Trump to 'back off' attacks on GOP colleague Lawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers MORE (Texas), a firebrand conservative freshman, is also eyeing the role.

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But two sources say House GOP leaders are also considering a different route: picking a placeholder who could finish out the year before making a decision on who will hold the spot for the long term.

While Armstrong and Green appear to be widely liked by GOP leadership, there is some reluctance to pick a freshman for such a high-profile role. Picking a ranking member for the short term, however, would give a freshman lawmaker close to a full year under their belt before vying for the post.

Members like Reps. Gary PalmerGary James PalmerTop GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race GOP protest overshadows impeachment hearing MORE (Ala.) and retiring Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition Freshman Dem finds voice in fight against online extremism MORE (N.C.), both members of the GOP leadership team, have been floated as possible picks, but it is unclear whether there is a front-runner for the role.

"The theory would be they either open it up for [Comer, Hice, Armstrong and Green] and let them compete for it now, or put a placeholder in or just let somebody take it now,” said one senior source familiar with the discussions, noting that Palmer could take the helm of the panel.

Whoever lands the role will be taking over a position that Meadows was only recently voted into by the GOP Steering Committee. That move came after Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTrump, privacy hawks upend surveillance brawl Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition McConnell, top GOP senators throw support behind surveillance deal as deadline looms MORE (R-Ohio) was shifted over to the Judiciary Committee to serve as ranking member.

Plans for Meadows to lead Republicans on the Oversight panel, a role he had long eyed, were thrown into a tailspin earlier this month when Trump announced that his House ally would replace Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMeadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House Meadows set to resign from Congress as he moves to White House Mnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus MORE and serve as his new chief of staff, just days before the North Carolina Republican was set to start as ranking member on the panel.

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That prompted an ambitious group of Oversight members to let it be known that they’re eager for the top role.

Comer told The Hill that he has been “encouraged” to look at the ranking member position and that he is “gauging the level of support” he would have with the Steering Committee, which consists of top Republican lawmakers and is tasked with determining committee assignments.

“I am very interested in it. I'm just going around meeting individually with people on the Steering Committee and leadership to gauge support and we'll make a decision very soon but right now things look good,” Comer said, adding that he is “testing the waters.”

Armstrong, who previously worked as a lawyer and was described by other GOP lawmakers as a bright, up-and-coming member, also said he would be interested if leaders hold an election.

“If we are going to have an election for the position, I will be considering it going forward,” Armstrong told The Hill.

Green, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who is also viewed by leadership as a rising star, told The Hill he is “running” for the post.

In conversations with multiple GOP lawmakers familiar with the discussions, members offered competing views on who could land the role.

“If I were to bet, I'd put money on Comer because he's been a loyal, quiet guy. He got passed over for other stuff, it's his time to take a shot,” one GOP lawmaker said. “And as a freshman, that's too big a job. You're not gonna give it to them. You'd have revolt," the member added with a laugh.

But Rep. Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryBottom line Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition Lawmakers shame ex-Wells Fargo directors for failing to reboot bank MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the Steering Committee, said freshmen shouldn’t be ruled out.

“Lots of interest for the slot, great competition. And the good news about Republicans is that it's not pure seniority,” he said. “I think we're seeing that we've got a lot of talented members that are interested.”

The two top Republicans on the Steering Committee — Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOvernight Health Care: More states order residents to stay at home | Trump looks to sell public on coronavirus response | Judges block Ohio, Texas abortion bans | Dems eye infrastructure in next relief bill Asian American lawmaker warns of fear of racism over coronavirus stigma Democrats eye major infrastructure component in next coronavirus package MORE (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScalisePelosi scrambles to secure quick passage of coronavirus aid House GOP whip team seeks to get Republicans behind Senate coronavirus bill 14 things to know today about coronavirus MORE (La.) — wield the most power on the panel, with McCarthy counting for four votes and Scalise with two. The rest of the 29 members are allotted one vote each.

Multiple sources said that Hice, despite being the most senior member running for the position, could face significant hurdles after voting against McCarthy for Speaker at the start of the 116th Congress, as well as bucking leadership on key issues in the past.

“That doesn't play well when it comes time for these appointments,” one Republican member said.

Hice, who is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, said he doesn’t believe past tensions will be a factor, noting conservatives and leadership have managed to come together in the minority as they work together to defend the president from Democratic attacks.

“That was then, this is now — [it has] long been water under the bridge. And being in the minority has a way of pulling us all together, we’re rowing together on the same team for the same purpose,” he said.

The Georgia Republican highlighted his experience working with Meadows and Jordan — both founding members of the Freedom Caucus and close allies of the president — on the Oversight and Reform Committee, adding that he believes he can bring the same level of vitality to the role.

“That's a committee that Democrats have used to attack the president and impeachment and all this sort of stuff, and we've had incredible leadership with Jim and Mark,” Hice said. “I just think we need to keep that spirit.”

Roy, another Freedom Caucus member who previously worked as chief of staff for Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFlorida sheriff asks for new leads in disappearance of Carole Baskin's former husband after Netflix's 'Tiger King' drops Ted Cruz jokes about quarantine boredom, 'Tiger King' Trump faces mounting pressure to unleash Defense Production Act MORE (R-Texas), has also had his own run-ins with leadership, most notably when he infuriated colleagues by single-handedly blocking a voice vote on a $19 billion disaster aid package last year.

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But sources close to Roy highlighted he is interested in the role, noting he is the only freshman to serve as the top Republican on one of the panel’s subcommittees.

The Texas Republican, while expressing interest in the role, has acknowledged he likely faces an uphill climb.

“I've let people know that I'd be happy to do it, but I don't really think I see leadership rushing to get a spirited freshman to be in that role,” he said.

Roy, who said he thinks McCarthy is looking to move in a different direction, added that he will touch base with relevant members during next week’s House recess to gauge their level of support.

Both Meadows and Jordan have shown that despite an initial frosty relationship with McCarthy, a thawing is possible. The two lawmakers, who have established themselves as Trump’s attack dogs on Capitol Hill, managed to secure coveted committee posts under McCarthy’s leadership. Many have credited Trump as the uniting factor among previously opposing factions within the GOP.

And one thing GOP leaders are looking for in Meadows’s successor is someone who won’t back down from a confrontation with Democrats.

“It's important that we have somebody fill that role that's going to be aggressive in carrying out the proper job of oversight,” said Scalise. “And we've been in touch — we've heard from a lot of members that are interested and that's a good thing.”