The Corner

Hensarling for RSC

The next House Republican leadership fight (via Jonathan Allen in CQ Today): 

Rep. Jeb Hensarling will be nominated to head the Republican Study Committee next year, according to a letter sent Tuesday by eight of the most active RSC members.  Their endorsement of the second-term Texas Republican sets up a potentially nasty fight over the direction of the House’s most conservative faction. The four founders of the RSC John T. Doolittle of California, Ernest Istook of Oklahoma, Dan Burton of Indiana and Sam Johnson of Texas are expected to nominate their own candidate, appropriator Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, for the post.

The RSC founders’ pick has been honored in the past by the rank and file. But Tuesday’s letter signed by current RSC Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana, John Shadegg of Arizona and six other conservatives signals a willingness among some RSC members to continue using aggressive tactics in the pursuit of a more conservative legislative agenda.

Some Republicans blame Pence and his allies in the RSC for election losses, pointing to their campaign to publicize spending increases during a period of Republican control of Congress. But many conservatives say the GOP’s loss of the House and Senate resulted from an abandonment of small-government principles. 

Pence has won praise from conservative activists for his stands against pork barrel spending, President Bush’s 2001 education overhaul (PL 107-110) and the Medicare prescription-drug law (PL 108-173).  But he and Shadegg, both of whom signed the Hensarling letter, were easily defeated in Republican leadership bids earlier this month, a loss that was seen as a rebuke of their message and tactics.

Some conservative aides have expressed concern about promoting Tiahrt, an appropriator to head a group that often clashes with the Appropriations Committee on spending issues. Others worry that Tiahrt would give Republican leaders too much sway over the RSC.

In an interview last week, Tiahrt suggested that he has at least tacit backing from Republican leaders. “I have spoken with leadership about the job. They’re supportive,” he said.  He argued that he has advanced conservative principles as a member of the Appropriations Committee.  “There are some who think that appropriators are the enemy and everyone’s entitled to their view,” he said. “Most of them haven’t been around long enough to see some of my battles.”

Tiahrt has sponsored amendments aimed at prohibiting funding for foreign family-planning groups, needle-exchange programs and adoptions by gay couples.  His penchant for sticking conservative social-policy riders on appropriations bills has not always met with approval from fellow appropriators.  Hensarling’s backers say he is “committed to advancing conservative principles of limited-government, traditional family values, a strong national defense and retaking the majority in 2008.”

In addition to Pence and Shadegg, the Hensarling endorsement letter was signed by Reps. Tom Feeney of Florida, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Kevin Brady of Texas, Jeff Flake of Arizona, J. Gresham Barrett of South Carolina and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

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