In the middle of reading a story about a possible breakup between two conservative factions in the House, I found what should be a very, very fascinating tidbit to folks in these parts. According to Phillip Wegmann at the Daily Signal:
“I’ve heard of no mass exodus (from the Republican Study Committee),” a GOP aide said, “just a few members here and there who don’t feel they use the resources [RSC] provides often enough to justify paying the dues.”
The right candidate for RSC chairman could change that dynamic though, the aide speculated. “I’d imagine a Chairman Andy Harris would make (House Freedom Caucus) folks more likely to stick around.”
Harris, a Maryland Republican, is a potential candidate for RSC chairman, according to multiple Capitol Hill sources. He has remained tight-lipped about his plans, however. Harris’ office did not respond to multiple requests by email and phone from The Daily Signal.
The race for RSC chairman will officially be decided after the November election, but members have been talking about it at least since July when Flores announced this year’s process. When lawmakers return in September, interested candidates will meet with the study committee’s founders. Because the House is in recess all of October and most of November, that only leaves next month for campaigning.
No congressmen have declared their candidacy officially, but a senior GOP aide told The Daily Signal that both Harris and Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., are building support inside the caucus for a bid. (Emphasis mine.)
I realize we are going by the word of an unnamed “GOP aide” – for all we know, he or she may work for Andy – but assuming this is true, it is an intriguing prospect for Andy’s national profile. Because he is far more conservative than most Maryland voters are perceived to be (and certainly Democrats are happy to help that perception along) it’s quite likely that a statewide position isn’t in the cards for Andy. However, he does represent a conservative district that is quite pleased with his record based on the fact he’s received over 75% of the primary vote each time since his 2010 election against challengers who ranged from neophyte to crackpot to serious enough to have some name recognition in portions of the district.
While the RSC has maintained a reputation as the conservative hangout for the House, the fact that membership includes the vast majority of the Republican caucus seems to give a perception that the RSC is now the “establishment.” At the beginning of the current iteration of Congress, the more conservative members decided they needed their own group because they felt the large size of the RSC was watering down its conservative message – hence, the House Freedom Caucus was born. While Harris wasn’t a founding member of that group, he is one of 42 members of the Freedom Caucus as well as an RSC participant.
As leadership will likely be rearranged in the wake of November’s election, Andy Harris may be presented with a number of opportunities. Given that the state’s blatant gerrymandering has placed Harris in an exceptionally safe seat, he has used the opportunity to try and build up the GOP farm team in his district – but now could be a spokesperson on a larger stage. (However, I am holding him to something he promised when first elected – six terms and out.) Love him or hate him, we will see if the back half of Harris’s Congressional service becomes a springboard to a leading role in the national conservative movement.
By Cathy Keim
I have been out of action due to travel and a crashed computer. Now that I am home and my computer has been revived, I would like to offer some thoughts about last week’s disheartening and cowardly betrayal of the base by our overlords in D.C.
Speaker Boehner used his last opportunity to either support President Obama’s agenda again or to clear the path for the 2016 Presidential election so that the GOP candidate can win by removing the controversial budget battle and potential government shutdown. I suppose that the GOP leadership thinks that it was the second option, but the effect on the base was to demoralize and depress them to the point where one might say we are not a two party system anymore. Instead, they contend we are a one party system with two names!
The backroom bargaining that led to the passage of the budget bill was a slap in the face to all the grassroots supporters of the GOP. The leadership may think that they have cleared the path for the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, to work collegially with the various factions in the House, but this seems unlikely.
Speaker Boehner passed his budget through with Democrat votes again! The majority of the Republicans voted against the budget, but not Paul Ryan. “I think this process stinks,” the speaker-in-waiting reportedly harrumphed as he walked into a meeting where Republicans were briefed about the 11th-hour agreement. “Under new management, we are not going to run the House this way.”
Speaker Boehner cleaned the barn before turning the reins over to Paul Ryan, who despite his complaint about how the budget deal came to be, did not disagree so strongly as to vote against it.
Congressman Andy Harris voted against the budget and even tweeted this plea to the senate to save us from this deal.
Overwhelming Republican Majority in House voted NO #BudgetDeal – Senate should oppose to protect Americans from irresponsibility.
— Rep. Andy Harris, MD (@RepAndyHarrisMD) October 29, 2015
But in similar fashion to Ryan, he got over his angst quickly enough to vote the next day to approve Ryan as Speaker.
Where does this leave us now? Will Speaker Ryan be an improvement over John Boehner? Will it make any difference?
Our first inkling of whether Paul Ryan will try to re-establish Congressional prerogatives to check this administration will be whether he will allow riders on the next CRomnibus bill. If he allows the conservative members to attach riders, this will lead to a fight with the President. Will Ryan permit this or will he roll over for the President?
We will know soon enough since the CR has to be dealt with in December.
Another major issue to watch is immigration. Paul Ryan has been soft on immigration for years. In a bargain to be elected Speaker, he agreed to not bring up immigration reform under this President. Depending on who the next President is, this promise may not amount to much. Several of the GOP candidates are open border types as is Hillary Clinton, so this promise is a weak reed for the conservatives in Congress to lean on.
Interestingly, the House Freedom Caucus is not conservative on immigration. This makes logical sense if one realizes that many of the Freedom Caucus members are more libertarian than conservative and libertarians tend to advocate for immigration.
A recent PBS documentary exposed how Ryan and Rubio were nearly successful in their effort to pass amnesty in 2014. Ryan had crafted a bill and had the Republican votes necessary to pass it. Ryan’s amnesty effort was aided by many of the members of the House Freedom Caucus, including Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID). Mulvaney has since become one of the biggest boosters in the House Freedom Caucus of a Paul Ryan Speakership. According to the documentary, the Ryan-Rubio amnesty plan was foiled when Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA)scored a historic primary victory to oust then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Sessions explained in the interview, “There’s a great danger to elect a Speaker of the House who is a leading advocate for two major issues today — trade and immigration — and advocating against the wishes of the Republican voter.”
No matter what Speaker Ryan does, I doubt if any of us will wish to have John Boehner back. But we may not find Ryan much of an improvement if he follows through on his previous positions. If he does allow for more open debate without punishing those that disagree with him and if he will return to the Hastert Rule which says the Speaker will not bring up issues for a vote which cannot be passed by a majority vote of the majority party (no more bills passed by a minority of Republicans aided by Democrats), then we may find that Paul Ryan is an improvement over John Boehner.
It’s been a topic of discussion on this website for about a year, but those who believe the Export-Import Bank of the United States is simply a hotbed for crony capitalism and a classic example of government picking winners and losers restored a supporter in Andy Harris.
From our friends at Heritage Action:
Over the past month, momentum has grown for allowing the Export-Import Bank to expire. It is now clear the bank will not be reauthorized by June 30th. Additionally, conservatives leaders and caucuses will fight any efforts to revive the bank, which is a slush fund for the government to pick favorites and give taxpayer dollars to a handful of well-connected special interests. Last month, the 170-member Republican Study Committee joined the 40-member House Freedom Caucus in official opposition to the bank. They are joined by the House Majority Leader, Majority Whip and eight prominent chairmen. What’s more, Senator Mike Lee made clear conservatives will (use the) procedural tools available to ensure a reauthorization effort is not on autopilot and will entail a lot of floor time.
Indeed, Harris is on the Heritage Action list. But his opposition is nothing new as he voted against Ex-Im’s last reauthorization in 2012. That was a rather lonely position as Andy was one of only 93 members (all Republicans) to say no to Ex-Im.
But that’s not to say that Ex-Im is dead by any means. Giving it new life could be one of those items attached to a “must-pass” bill, as Kathleen Miller at Bloomberg notes:
In the House, Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said he won’t let the bank’s reauthorization be attached to a measure that would speed consideration of trade agreements.
“Ex-Im Bank will not be included in any of these trade deals,” Ryan, who opposes the bank, said last week. “We are not doing that.”
That leaves supporters searching for must-pass legislation to carry the reauthorization, something that Ex-Im opponents would be reluctant to vote against even if it means extending the bank’s charter.
Or the reauthorization may be used as a wedge issue by factions in either party to extract concessions. Like any government program, Ex-Im has had its demise predicted before only to survive unscathed, like a cockroach after nuclear holocaust.
I’ll believe it’s dead when I see its lifeless corpse.
By the way, I reached out to Harris’s primary opponent, former Delegate Mike Smigiel, but he did not reply to my inquiry.