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 MeadowsAre the legal walls closing in on Donald Trump? Jan. 6 probe roils Cheney race in Wyoming House has the power to subpoena its members — but does it have the will? MORE (R-N.C.).

Top contenders to succeed Meadows, who will be President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dead at 77 Biden, Democrats losing ground with independent and suburban voters: poll Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE’s new White House chief of staff, include Reps. James ComerJames (Jamie) R. ComerSwalwell slams House Republican for touting funding in bill she voted down Conservatives push for boycott of GOP club over DC vaccine mandate House Republicans call for oversight into Biden's 'failed' COVID-19 response MORE (Ky.) and Jody HiceJody Brownlow HicePerdue proposes election police force in Georgia Secretary of state races come under red-hot focus Watchdog finds fundraising spikes for Ga., Mich., Minn. secretary of state candidates MORE (Ga.), as well as freshmen Reps. Kelly Armstrong (N.D.) and Mark GreenMark GreenTrade can improve Jordan's economic burdens made worse by refugees The US is on the sidelines of a historic transformation in the Middle East Nearshoring: Panacea, quick fix or something in between? MORE (Tenn.).

Rep. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoySupreme Court declines GOP challenge against House proxy voting Mask rules spark political games and a nasty environment in the House GOP lawmakers seek answers from FDA on prenatal testing accuracy following New York Times report 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 PalmerGOP beginning to jockey for post-election leadership slots Alabama Republican touts provision in infrastructure bill he voted against Mo Brooks launches Senate bid in Alabama MORE (Ala.) and retiring Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 The 10 races that will decide the Senate majority North Carolina Democrat Jeff Jackson drops out of Senate race 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 JordanAre the legal walls closing in on Donald Trump? Biden: A good coach knows when to change up the team House has the power to subpoena its members — but does it have the will? 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 MulvaneyTrump's relocation of the Bureau of Land Management was part of a familiar Republican playbook Jan. 6 committee issues latest round of subpoenas for rally organizers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - To vote or not? Pelosi faces infrastructure decision 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.

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 McHenryConservatives are outraged that Sarah Bloom Raskin actually believes in capitalism Overnight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks Biden selects Sarah Bloom Raskin, two others for Fed board 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 McCarthyOn The Money — Support for new COVID-19 relief grows Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law Are the legal walls closing in on Donald Trump? MORE (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseSarah Palin's defamation case against New York Times heads to trial Supreme Court handcuffs Biden on vaccinations House GOP campaign arm rakes in 0M in 2021 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.

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“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 CruzPoll: Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second The politics of 'mind control' Juan Williams: It's Trump vs. McConnell for the GOP's future 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.”