People often ask me what can be done to move the elected officials within the Republican Party rightward. Well, for one thing, we need to elect more conservatives. But more importantly, we need those conservatives to obtain positions of power, such as chairmanships of the committees that set our domestic policy agenda.
Not surprisingly, all the relevant committee chairmen are either conduits for leadership or are even more liberal than leadership. Here is a list of the chairmen along with their respective 2011 scores from Heritage Action:
Energy & Commerce
Illena Ros Lehtinen
Science, Space, & Tech
Transportation & Infrastructure
Ways and Means
As you can see, Paul Ryan and Darrell Issa are the only chairmen of important committees who are at least somewhat independent of leadership – at least on minor issues (they voted for the debt ceiling and omnibus). For comparison, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy scored a 61%. Most of the chairmen voted at or below that standard.
In general, most of the conservative insurgents are relatively new and have not accrued enough seniority to win chairmanships. This is why it is so important for the Republican Conference to abide by the current term limit rule. Under current rules, no member can serve for more than 6 years as chairman of a committee. The kicker is that the years as ranking member count towards those 6 years.
As Roll Call reported last week, there are 5 chairmen who are term-limited at the end of the year; Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, T&I Chairman John Mica, Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus, and Science, Space and Technology Chairman Ralph Hall. Also, David Dreier, the Chairman of the powerful Rules Committee is retiring this year. Of those members, only Mica plans to ask for a waiver, while there is talk of granting Ryan an extension as Budget Chair.
Thus far, Republicans have been good about adhering to the term limit rule and denying waivers. They should continue to do so. No chairmen should be too big to fail. Moreover, by extending the terms of the current chairmen, it will preclude conservative insurgents from moving up on the ladder. I would welcome a Budget Chairman Scott Garrett in 2013.
Now is not the time to go wobbly on term limit waivers.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project