Politics & Policy

Shadegg For Leader

Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona has jumped into the House majority-leader race. He is a decided underdog and is taking a personal risk by voluntarily giving up his leadership slot as head of the Republican Policy Committee to pursue the majority leadership. But fortune favors the bold, and so do we. At a time of an ethical crisis, when the Republican majority often seems to have lost direction, John Shadegg is the right man to clean house and restore the GOP majority to its core principles. We endorse John Shadegg for majority leader.

No one doubts Shadegg’s talent or his principle. While all three contenders have conservative voting records, Shadegg is a member of the class of 1994 who never lost the conservative, reformist spirit of that watershed year. He voted against No Child Left Behind, and, more recently, against the prescription-drug bill. He has warm personal relations with the conference’s moderates, and is a fresh face at a moment that cries out for one.

There are three imperatives for the House GOP in the current environment that threatens its majority: Can it clean up its image? Can it reform practices that have at best made for sloppy governance and at worst contributed to corruption? And can it pursue policies that restore the trust of its political base and restore a purpose to an often direction-less majority? Shadegg is the best candidate on all counts.

Of the three contenders, he is the candidate least associated with the status quo, and the cozy world of K Street. That’s a good thing. After his election, the next majority leader must be able to withstand withering scrutiny from a media eager to take down another top Republican on ethical grounds. Although Shadegg–along with a bipartisan majority in Congress–has minor connections to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, he has never been close to K Street.

“The future direction,

and perhaps the future existence,

of the House Republican majority

depends on choices that will be made in coming weeks.”

When it comes to reform, Shadegg wants aggressively to push to tighten lobbying rules and–most importantly–increase the transparency of the legislative process, control earmarks, and change the antiquated budget process that favors out-of-control spending. In recent days, the other candidates, Majority Whip Roy Blunt and Rep. John Boehner of Ohio (the latter who, to his credit, is a longtime scourge of earmarks), have started a minor bidding war on reform. That’s all to the good. We expect Shadegg–who just joined the campaign Friday morning–to up the ante in coming days. We believe he is the candidate most credible on reform, and most likely to carry it out if elected.

On policy, the Republican conference seems to have lost its way lately. Shadegg has not. He is a conviction conservative. As he told NRO earlier this week, “We need to shrink the size of government, not grow it. We need to reform government, not manage it.” A majority leader can’t be a purist, of course, and, as we have often noted, it’s not a lack of will or conviction alone that has created limited-government conservatism’s difficulties–larger forces are at play. But given the dismaying recent drift, the top of the leadership could use an infusion of Shadegg’s sort of unvarnished principle.

Conservatives both inside and outside the House have complained a lot recently, because there has been much to complain about. But venting and carping have their limits. Now, there is a chance to make a real difference. Now is the time for the Republican Study Committee, the caucus of House conservatives, to stand up and be counted. The future direction, and perhaps the future existence, of the House Republican majority depends on choices that will be made in coming weeks. We are ready to cast our vote–for John Shadegg.

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