Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman

Greg Nash

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), an Afghanistan War veteran and President Trump 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.

“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 Scalise (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 McCarthy (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.

“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 Johnson (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 Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Jeff Duncan (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 Price (R-Ga.), who served as House Budget Committee chairman and later as Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary; Rep. Jim Jordan (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.”

Tags Conservative Coronavirus COVID-19 Deficit spending Donald Trump House Republicans Indiana Jeff Duncan Jim Banks Jim Jordan Kevin McCarthy Mike Gallagher Mike Johnson Mike Pence national debt Republican Study Committee Steve Scalise Tom Price

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