Bachmann drops leadership bid

Her remark on Facebook was short, sweet, and to the point:

It is with confidence in Jeb Hensarling’s leadership that I bring my candidacy for Republican Conference Chair to a close and proudly support him.

So Michele Bachmann won’t create the tempest in the teapot some feared in her bid for a leadership post, but those who followed her rise in prominence with the advent of the TEA Party may be disappointed. However, Jeb Hensarling of Texas (who will become Conference Chair) had a 100 ACU rating in 2009 and was formerly Chair of the Republican Study Committee, which is the primary outlet for conservative Republicans in Congress. So it’s not like the position is going to a squishy moderate.

[By the way, when I spoke to Andy Harris about the subject two years ago he indicated he would be part of the Republican Study Committee if elected so I presume he’ll become a member of that august body come January. Conversely, Wayne Gilchrest (and Bob Ehrlich when he was in office) were both members of the Republican Main Street Partnership – their membership roll reflects the moderate wing of the party.]

Most of the remaining drama for the House now shifts to the Energy and Commerce Committee, where Fred Upton of Michigan is in line to become Chairman. Unfortunately, this member of the RMSP draws a lot of concern about his record on energy-related issues (see pages 10-13 here, although the rest is troubling too) so his effort has drawn opposition. In this case Joe Barton of Texas, the ranking member, is term-limited (by agreement) but would be a better choice. He introduced legislation to kill the very regulations Upton championed.

Meanwhile, Bachmann still has a pretty good consolation prize: she still heads the 52-member strong House TEA Party Caucus. Its membership roster is sure to grow given the election results; hopefully Andy Harris will join that group too.

The Spending Limit Amendment

Earlier this morning I participated in a conference call with Rep. Jeb Hansarling (R-TX) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN). They are two of the three initial sponsors of a possible Constitutional amendment called the Spending Limit Amendment (H.J. Res. 79), a proposal to limit federal spending to 20% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This number was arrived at because that’s a rough average of federal spending vs. GDP over an extended period.

Their argument falls in a number of categories ranging from dire economic straits to lost productivity to a national security threat. In the call, Hensarling noted “we believe we have to act now” and that he’s “not naive about the fact 5,000 amendments to the Constitution have been offered but only 27 ratified.” Instead, “what we hope to do is start a national debate on the size of government.”

Added Pence, “we have come to the conclusion that we need to introduce a new force,” that force being one of changing our “charter.” He also made the oft-noted point that “as government expands, freedom contracts.”

A number of different bloggers asked questions; I happened to be one of them. My question related to the fact that this seemed to me a weaker version of the balanced budget amendments proposed in the early 1990’s. Congressman Pence argued that this was “not a weaker version” but “a focused effort” on reining in the “runaway spending on steroids” going on today. In their estimate, running a small deficit but only spending 20% of GDP was preferable to having a balanced budget consuming 40% of GDP.

On an earlier question, the pair agreed that the BBA debate “had an impact” on spending immediately after it was considered.

There’s a lot more to the roughly 40-minute call, but since I’ve been promised the recording later today I can let you be the judge. Suffice to say that this should be a great issue to use in the 2010 campaign and they hope the TEA Party movement embraces the proposal, but they agreed this will be “a multiyear effort” and warned that, left unchecked, in 20 years our spending will place us in the similar position Greece faces now.

It reinforced my belief that Pence and Hensarling are “keepers” when it comes to a “throw the bums out” mentality. You’ll enjoy hearing what they have to say.