The most important vote that will happen very soon is the vote for Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the conservative group within the House Republican Conference that often finds itself trying to pull the Republicans to the right. These past two years, it was the RSC leadership that pressed the GOP to avoid selling out to Barack Obama repeatedly, insisted the GOP keep its word on cutting spending, and held the line on "cut, cap, and balance." It is important that the RSC have the strongest possible conservative in charge because when pressure is brought to bear by House Republican Leaders, we do not want a shrinking violet in the job.
Two fine men are running for the job, Tom Graves of Georgia and Steve Scalise of Louisiana. I'm in a fortunate position. As a native of Louisiana, I love to see Louisiana congressmen doing well. As a resident of Georgia and friend of Tom Graves', I'm delighted to see him do well.
Ultimately in this race, I must side with Tom Graves. Steve Scalise has signaled he will weaken the Republican Study Committee. It is telling that all prior chairmen of the RSC are supporting Tom Graves. I have no doubt that Scalise is a good and honorable man, but if the RSC had not repeatedly fought tough fights against the GOP these past two years under Jim Jordan, we'd be in a far worse position that we are now as a nation. Had the RSC not revolted, John Boehner would have had his tax increase deal with Barack Obama in 2011.
Congressman Scalise wants to reposition the Republican Study Committee because it "has veered too far from its roots and does not effectively work with leadership to get things done." He laments that the RSC is a group "whose positions are dictated from the top" rather than being a "“Member-driven organization.”
He's absolutely right on that and it would be a horrible idea to go with Scalise's approach.
The Republican Study Committee these days lets in any Republican. There is no litmus test. Consequently, the RSC is filled with some of the squishiest Republicans in all of America, but they hide behind their membership to claim conservative bona fides with stupid beltway reporters and folks back home who are not paying full attention. If Steve Scalise has his way, these squishy Republicans will direct the RSC.
We almost got a taste of that these past two years. RSC members revolted because the RSC — bless its heart — actually stood up to House Leaders trying to sell out their own Pledge to Nowhere. It happened repeatedly. The bulk of the RSC members stood with House Leaders and the RSC leadership held the line for conservatives.
I am fearful Congressman Scalise's approach and his willingness to signal he wants to work with leadership would be the death of an organized conservative voice in the House, though I have no doubt a new one would be started.
Congressman Tom Graves of Georgia has a 97% Heritage Action score in the House (Rep. Scalise is at 81%) — tied for second place behind Jeff Duncan of South Carolina. in the Georgia House of Representatives, Tom Graves often was the lone Republican who stood up to Georgia Republicans who, prior to the sweep of Georgia by the GOP, often bore a "D" next to their name. Graves, when he could, would rally House Republicans in the Georgia legislature against Republicans who wanted to raise taxes, expand bureaucratic programs, and sell out the very people who elected them. He is tested in this area and he knows when he can and when he cannot work with Republican leaders.
Conservatives find themselves increasingly isolated within their own party, blamed for a defeat for which others are truly responsible. They need fighters right now, not kumbaya with John Boehner. Republican Study Committee members should vote for Tom Graves. Steve Scalise is a good man, but his view on the role of the RSC would splinter the group and fracture the authentic conservative voices in the House of Representatives.