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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 MeadowsBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Stephen Miller launching group to challenge Democrats' policies through lawsuits A year with the coronavirus: How we got here MORE (R-N.C.).

Top contenders to succeed Meadows, who will be President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE’s new White House chief of staff, include Reps. James ComerJames (Jamie) R. ComerRepublicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program Top House Republicans ask Harris for meeting on border MORE (Ky.) and Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceAtlanta Democrat announces bid for Georgia secretary of state Loeffler asks Georgia attorney general to investigate Raffensperger over 2020 election Heated argument erupts after Rep. Mondaire Jones calls GOP objections to DC statehood 'racist trash' MORE (Ga.), as well as freshmen Reps. Kelly Armstrong (N.D.) and Mark GreenMark GreenMy Constitutional amendment to stop the Democrats' 'bonehead idea' On The Money: COVID-19 relief bill on track for House passage, Biden signature Wednesday | First new checks to go out starting next week GOP lawmaker renews push for balanced budget amendment MORE (Tenn.).

Rep. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyFive takeaways on the House's return to budget earmarks Hillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech 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 PalmerMo Brooks launches Senate bid in Alabama Former Trump officials eye bids for political office The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending MORE (Ala.) and retiring Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden to country: 'Turning peril into possibility' Budd to run for Senate in NC Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign 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 JordanJordan says 'votes are there' to oust Cheney from GOP leadership Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Facebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one 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 MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' 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 McHenryMcCarthy unveils House GOP task forces, chairs On The Money: House panel spars over GameStop, Robinhood | Manchin meets with advocates for wage | Yellen says go big, GOP says hold off House panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps 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 McCarthyBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories National Review editors defend Cheney from party attacks MORE (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseCheney GOP conference deputy has complained about 'coronation' of Stefanik: report Loyalty trumps policy in Stefanik's rise, Cheney's fall Likely Cheney successor appears on Bannon show to tout GOP unity 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 CruzCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts Pollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls 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.”