“[I]f the Republican Party does not start positively responding to grassroots conservatives, these key activists may bolt the GOP…. If the GOP in Congress will not stand up to Obama, what good is having the leadership positions?” — Jeff Crouere, media host and columnist at Townhall.com
The recent midterm elections and discussions of “lame duck” bills and executive actions, etc., got me thinking again of who might be good replacements for Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House and for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Senate Majority Leader. Don’t get me wrong; I like them OK. Sometimes, I like what they say and do, but all too often I find them rather aggravating. Both of them are entrenched, “establishment” Republicans with an apparent disdain for — or, at least, distrust of — Tea Party types, whether over policy (e.g., immigration, taxes, agricultural programs) or strategy/tactics (e.g., whether or not “government shutdown” should even be on the table during budget negotiations) or both. Since I lean toward Tea Party thinking on many things, this attitude by Boehner and McConnell and other GOP leaders troubles me. Plus, as Crouere intimated above, they have not been very effective — cowardly, in some cases — when it comes to countering the administration’s “progressive” agenda.
Unfortunately, Republican majorities in both chambers just recently (re-)elected both gentlemen to their respective positions for the 114th Congress (beginning Jan. 3, 2015) with little-to-no opposition. But, if either should die or resign for some reason, his leadership position would (obviously) become open and a new election scheduled. So, who would be good candidates, if the need arises? (Of course, in 2016 normal elections will force the issue, anyway.) When considering who might fit the bill (pun intended) for these offices, I looked at:
1) Length of time in House and/or Senate. Seniority is a measure of automatic (though limited) respect, but it is also a factor in determining who knows whom and “how things work” in Congress and in Washington, for good or for bad. Plus, it is only natural and fair to not give top leadership positions to relative newbies but to preserve them as “rewards of service” to more senior members. For these reasons, I lean towards those with more years and experience.
2) Memberships (and especially chairmanships) of important committees and subcommittees in their respective chambers. These positions are given out by party leaders, often as rewards (or punishments, depending on the committee) and/or as shows of trust that an individual will represent the party’s interests well. If they stay there awhile, it (hopefully) means they are doing a decent job. (Unfortunately, it can also mean that the person is simply “towing the party line” and doing what they are told, when the party line may have strayed in some areas from what is truly best for the American people.) More to the point, such appointments are a major method by which U.S. Representatives and Senators gain influence and respect among peers and non-peers alike.
3) Lifetime scores on most recent Congressional Scorecards put out by Heritage Action, Club for Growth, and American Conservative Union. These are excellent barometers for the relative “conservativeness” of politicians, since these three groups are known for supporting and promoting consistent conservatism and challenging GOP “establishment” leadership. (Club for Growth focuses on key economic legislation, whereas the other two cover a broader range of issues and may be better overall guides.) Although I would prefer a House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader who rank near the top on all of these lists, I tried not to let that be the driving force in my selection.
4) General sense of how they might do as a leader (e.g., fairness, respect, courage in fighting liberal “progressive” agenda, etc.) and being in the spotlight. This may be the most important criterion. Unfortunately, I don’t have a whole lot to go on, other than what I can glean from seeing/hearing each via articles, interviews, press conferences, and the like.
So, after looking at several Representatives and Senators in light of the above criteria, trying to find those with a good balance, who do I suggest? I have three potential candidates for each position:
Speaker of the House first…
o Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ): Franks is my first choice. He has 12 solid years in the House and is considered one of the “most conservative” members of the House by The National Journal. He is a member of several caucuses, including Tea Party Caucus, Liberty Caucus, and International Religious Freedom Caucus. He serves on two subcommittees within the House Armed Services Committee, as well as on two subcommittees within the House Judiciary Committee, chairing one of them. His lifetime scores are: Heritage – 97%; Club for Growth – 98%; ACU – 98.91%.
o Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX): Gohmert is another strong conservative, with 10 years in the House, who is sometimes seen as a thorn in Boehner’s side. He is a member of three caucuses, including the Tea Party Caucus, as well as the Republican Study Committee. He is a member of two subcommittees and a task force within the House Judiciary Committee. Gohmert also serves on two subcommittees within the House Committee on Natural Resources. His lifetime scores are: Heritage – 92%; Club for Growth – 89%; ACU – 96.44%.
o Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH): Jordan is another solid conservative and an excellent choice. He has 8 years of service in the House so far, and he chaired the Republican Study Committee during the 112th Congress. He is a member of the House Budget Committee; serves on two subcommittees within the House Judiciary Committee; serves on two subcommittees within the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; reportedly turned down a position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee; and is a member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi (chaired by Trey Gowdy). Jordan’s lifetime scores are: Heritage – 93%; Club for Growth – 98%; ACU – 100%.
What do you think? Tom McClintock is a “runner up”, I suppose. He has very good lifetime scores (Heritage – 90%; Club for Growth – 98%; ACU – 98.4%.), but he only has 6 years in, so Gohmert stays. I also really like “young guns” Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Justin Amash (R-MI), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Steve Stockman (R-TX), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), and Trey Gowdy (R-SC), all of whom have very solidly conservative ratings and are gaining “notoriety” as pains in the collective butts of Democrats and establishment GOP alike. However, none of them has more than 4 years’ congressional service, yet. I look forward to seeing them all do a lot of good for the conservative cause and, by extension, for America in the years to come. Eventually, maybe one or more will become Speaker of the House — or, even POTUS.
Of course, the House rules do not demand that the Speaker be an actual member of the U.S. House of Representatives. In fact, not long ago former Speaker Newt Gingrich was nominated for the position. (I wonder if he knew?) Also, although he had just lost his Nov. 2012 bid for re-election, outspoken Rep. Allen West (R-FL) was nominated for Speaker for the 113th Congress by Rep. Gohmert, thereby breaking ranks with GOP leadership (who put/kept Boehner in).
As for Senate Majority Leader, if Jim DeMint (R-SC) hadn’t already taken over as head of the Heritage Foundation, he would probably be at the top of my list. He retired from the Senate after 6 years in the House and 8 years in the Senate with the following lifetime scores: Heritage – 99%; Club for Growth – 100%; ACU – 97+%. He is articulate and comfortable in front of the camera and known for playing fair and by the rules. Normally, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) would be at or near the top of the list, too, given his years in Congress (16 in the House, 18 in the Senate) and experience on various (sub)committees. But, his lifetime scores of 79% and 74% from Heritage Action and Club for Growth, respectively, disappoint me and knock him down a few notches. I didn’t have time to investigate, but if Roberts started out a moderate and became increasingly conservative over the years, then that would be a legitimate reason and enough to put him back in the running. A third Senator I wanted to put on the list was Tom Coburn (R-OK), who currently scores Heritage – 87%; Club for Growth – 96%; ACU – 98%. He spent 6 years in the House and is finishing his 10th year in the Senate. Unfortunately, he is taking early retirement at the end of the 113th Congress, to be succeeded by Rep. James Lankford (R).
There are not many really strong conservatives in the U.S. Senate, right now. Most of those who are are relative newcomers and, therefore, not on the most powerful and prestigious committees (e.g., Appropriations or Finance). Without DeMint, Roberts, or Coburn, options are limited, but here are my three top recommendations (in no particular order):
o Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID): Risch is perhaps not that familiar a name, but he has been a U.S. Senator for 6 years, following stints as Lieut. Governor (twice) and Governor of Idaho. He is a member of three subcommittees within the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; serves on four subcommittees within the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship; member of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics; and, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. His lifetime scores are: Heritage – 87%; Club for Growth – 90%; ACU – 95.8%.
o Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL): Sessions should be a familiar name to those who keep up with the U.S. national political news. He has been climbing the Capitol Building steps for 18 years and is a member of the International Narcotics Control Caucus. He is the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee; member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; serves on three subcommittees within the Senate Armed Services Committee; and, serves on four subcommittees within the Senate Judiciary Committee. His lifetime scores are: Heritage – 81%; Club for Growth – 86%; ACU – 92.24%.
o Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK): Inhofe is another familiar name among the politically informed. He has been a fixture in Congress for 28 years (8 in the House, 20 in the Senate)! He is a member of several caucuses and, though he has dealt with his share of personal & professional controversies over the years, he is the first recipient of the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Character and Leadership Award for his character and leadership in public service. Inhofe currently serves on three subcommittees within the Senate Armed Services Committee and is the ranking minority member on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. His lifetime scores are: Heritage – 84%; Club for Growth – 93%; ACU – 96.82%.
You might notice the conspicuous absence of Tea Party favorites Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. I like them a lot, and they are all solid conservatives who are making names for themselves as gadflies to the Obama administration and the “progressive” agenda. But, they are also junior Senators with no more than 4 years apiece in Congress. I would not object very strongly if any of them were elected Senate Majority Leader, but, as I said, I generally prefer to see a respected senior member get the honor. On the other hand, someone like Richard Shelby (R-AL) has an impressive record of service (8 years in the House, 28 years in the Senate), serving on several (sub)committees — including chairing the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (1997-2001); chairing the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs (2003-2007); and now a member of six subcommittees within the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee –, but he is way too moderate (Heritage – 73%; Club for Growth – 77%; ACU – 76.46%) for my comfort level. (Compare to McConnell below.)
The downside, then, is that all of these “more senior” Senators are probably considered members of the GOP “Establishment”. I can only hope that, if one was made Senate Majority Leader, he would be fair, strong in the face of adversity from the Left, ready to work more closely with grass roots conservatives, and, most of all, an effective and honorable leader.
P.S. Just for comparison, here are a few more notables and their lifetime scores:
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH): Heritage – N/A; Club for Growth – 83%; ACU – 86.99%. (Note: The Speaker of the House doesn’t normally vote, so his lifetime scores for CfG and ACU are as of 2010. Heritage doesn’t provide one, but it couldn’t have been too high, since he has voted contrary to the Heritage position on almost all of the major bills since.)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT): Heritage – 81%; Club for Growth – 93%; ACU – 94.4%.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI): Heritage – 67%; Club for Growth – 85%; ACU – 90.67%.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA): Heritage – 63%; Club for Growth – 81%; ACU – 89.77%.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): Heritage – 49%; Club for Growth – 78%; ACU – 90.43%.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): Heritage – 72%; Club for Growth – 85%; ACU – 90.16%.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA): Heritage – 76%; Club for Growth – 78%; ACU – 83.6%.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA): Heritage – 76%; Club for Growth – 83%; ACU – 92.4%.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ): Heritage – 80%; Club for Growth – 98%; ACU – 95%.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD): Heritage – 67%; Club for Growth – 80%; ACU – 87.18%.
Also, re the Heritage Action scores, average for House Republicans is 62% and average for Senate Republicans is 64%. Pitiful.