Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman

Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman
© Greg Nash

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), an Afghanistan War veteran and President TrumpDonald John TrumpKimberly Guilfoyle reports being asymptomatic and 'feeling really pretty good' after COVID-19 diagnosis Biden says he will rejoin WHO on his first day in office Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad MORE ally, launched his bid Thursday to become the next chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), the largest GOP caucus on Capitol Hill.

In a letter to colleagues obtained by The Hill, Banks made the case that he is the right person to lead the nearly 150-member RSC as Congress throws trillions of dollars at the coronavirus pandemic and related economic crisis.

Washington must turn its focus back to tackling waste and abuse in government and the nation’s record $25 trillion debt, he said.

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“With the Coronavirus pandemic bringing America to its knees, our work is going to be even tougher in the years to come to rein in wasteful spending and to address the national debt,” Banks wrote in his letter. “As our Democrat colleagues continue to drift further to the socialist left, it is critical that we do more and better to advance a true conservative agenda.”

In a brief exchange with The Hill on Thursday, Banks added that the “RSC’s legacy role in addressing the debt is needed now more than ever, and as RSC chairman I’m eager to lead that fight.”

Banks, 40, has seen his profile steadily rise since his election to the House in 2016. He makes frequent appearances on Fox News and other cable channels, and he serves on the GOP vote-counting team led by House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseCheney clashes with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up MORE (R-La.). And as a Navy Reserve officer and member of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, he’s been an outspoken defense hawk, particularly on China.

More recently, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOn The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? McCarthy to offer bill withholding funds from states that don't protect statues McCarthy calls on Pelosi to condemn 'mob violence' after toppling of St. Junipero Serra statue MORE (D-Calif.) named Banks to his China Task Force, which is investigating that country’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. His appointment came after Banks called for reparations from China over damage from the coronavirus. He also rolled out legislation making it harder for the Chinese government to buy or invest in American companies crippled by the coronavirus.

Banks has called for new sanctions on Chinese government officials over their response to the coronavirus.

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“From the beginning, Jim has been adamant about getting to the truth and holding China accountable for its deadly role in spreading the coronavirus to the world,” McCarthy said when he named Banks to the GOP’s China panel.

It’s unclear who else might run for the top RSC job, but Banks is the favorite to succeed current Chairman Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonHouse Republicans call for cutting office budgets of lawmakers who use proxy voting The Hill's Morning Report - Treasury, Fed urge more spending, lending to ease COVID-19 wreckage Floyd's brother urges Congress to take action MORE (R-La.) after his two-year tenure ends at the end of the year. The election for RSC chair will take place after the November elections. Two RSC members — Rep. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherHillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director House Republican accuses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube of not doing enough to combat Chinese propaganda MORE (R-Wis.) and Jeff DuncanJeffrey (Jeff) Darren DuncanGOP lawmaker calls for Confederate portrait to be put back in Capitol Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman Republicans push for help for renewable energy, fossil fuel industries MORE (R-S.C.) — have already endorsed Banks.

“In order to win the policy battles of the day, we need a leader at the RSC who will articulate a clear and compelling case for conservatism,” said Gallagher, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. “Jim has not only been a tireless champion of limited government and fiscal responsibility, but has brought badly needed Midwest common sense to Congress in everything he does.”

The RSC post is seen as a stepping stone for ambitious Republicans like Banks, who previously served in the Whitley County Council and Indiana Statehouse. Past RSC chairmen have included Vice President Pence, who served in the House and later as Indiana governor when Banks was a state senator in Indianapolis; former Rep. Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceRep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman Doctors push Trump to quickly reopen country in letter organized by conservatives Coronavirus in Congress: Lawmakers who have tested positive MORE (R-Ga.), who served as House Budget Committee chairman and later as Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary; Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHow conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up Democrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers MORE (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee; and Scalise, who as GOP whip is the No. 2 Republican in the House.

In his letter to RSC colleagues, Banks highlighted his work on the RSC’s Steering Committee that helps develop positions on specific policy issues and as chairman of the RSC’s Budget and Spending Task Force. 

He also sounded an optimistic note about Republicans’ chances in November, when he is expected to easily win a third term representing a ruby-red district in northeast Indiana.

“With President Trump’s re-election and the real possibility of winning back the majority,” Banks wrote, “we will have an exciting two years to advance many of the important causes we care most deeply about as conservatives: addressing our national debt, advancing free-market health reforms, protecting our religious liberties and passing stricter policies to crack down on illegal immigration, to name a few.”