Rob Woodall to Replace Scalise at Republican Study Committee

The Georgia Republican will serve as a caretaker until November.

The U.S. Captiol dome is seen before work begins on a two-year, $60 million rnovation of March 19, 2014 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Tim Alberta
June 24, 2014, 3:14 p.m.

Rep. Steve Scal­ise will soon be re­placed as chair­man of the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee by Rep. Rob Woodall, who, upon his ex­pec­ted elec­tion next month, will serve as care­taker of the group for sev­er­al months un­til reg­u­larly-sched­uled elec­tions are held in Novem­ber.

The ap­point­ment of Woodall, a second-term Geor­gi­an who presently chairs the RSC’s Budget and Spend­ing Task Force, was pro­posed dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing of the RSC. But some mem­bers, in­clud­ing Rep. Tom Mc­Clin­tock, ob­jec­ted on pro­ced­ur­al grounds and de­man­ded a vote be held to elect the in­ter­im chair­man.

That elec­tion will be held Ju­ly 9, after law­makers re­turn from next week’s re­cess. Woodall is uni­ver­sally ex­pec­ted to be chosen as the RSC’s short-term chair­man at that point.

“This was purely pro­ced­ur­al,” Mc­Clin­tock said after Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing. “I’m go­ing to be vot­ing for Rob Woodall.”

“It’s a tech­nic­al thing,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, one of the “founders” or former chair­men of the group. Be­cause the group’s bylaws state that an elec­tion must be held to choose a new lead­er — even on an in­ter­im basis — Jordan said mem­bers felt more com­fort­able vot­ing on Woodall’s ap­pint­ment.

Top RSC lead­ers — that is, Scal­ise and the former chair­man — form­ally asked Woodall on Tues­day to serve as a care­taker chair­man un­til the Novem­ber elec­tions. He ac­cep­ted with the un­der­stand­ing that he will not seek a full two-year term as chair­man in the up­com­ing Con­gress.

“Ab­so­lutely I will not,” Woodall con­firmed Wed­nes­day when asked wheth­er he’ll seek a full term as RSC chair­man.

Once Woodall is elec­ted Ju­ly 9, there will be a one-week trans­ition peri­od be­fore Scal­ise steps down on Ju­ly 16. With a scant num­ber of le­gis­lat­ive days between then and Novem­ber’s elec­tions, Woodall is not ex­pec­ted to ruffle any feath­ers at RSC.

Scal­ise, in tan­dem with RSC lead­er­ship, also in­tro­duced on Wed­nes­day a pro­pos­al that would fun­da­ment­ally al­ter the way the group’s lead­er is chosen.

The RSC, a caucus of more than 170 self-styled con­ser­vat­ive House Re­pub­lic­ans, has for nearly 20 years had its chair­man se­lec­ted by a small group of former chair­men known on Cap­it­ol Hill as “The Founders.” (When Scal­ise steps aside, there will be five mem­bers of this group: Scal­ise, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. Tom Price, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, and Rep. Sam John­son.)

On sev­er­al oc­ca­sions the founders’ pick of a chair­man has been chal­lenged by an­oth­er can­did­ate, who, after col­lect­ing sig­na­tures from 25 per­cent of the mem­ber­ship, can then force a group-wide run­off vote. This happened most re­cently in 2012, when the founders en­dorsed Rep. Tom Graves of Geor­gia — only to see him lose to Scal­ise, the cur­rent RSC chair­man, in a hotly-con­tested elec­tion.

Seek­ing to avoid such in­terne­cine clashes in the fu­ture — which put the founders in the un­en­vi­able po­s­i­tion of pub­licly re­ject­ing a can­did­ate who may soon join their ex­clus­ive club — RSC lead­ers are sug­gest­ing a new meth­od for choos­ing a chair­man. Un­der the pro­posed rule tweak, the founders would in­ter­view any mem­ber in­ter­ested in the chair­man­ship, and then en­dorse mul­tiple can­did­ates to ad­vance to an elec­tion. This would al­low the RSC to func­tion more demo­crat­ic­ally, while still pre­serving the founders’ role of weed­ing out ill-suited can­did­ates.

“It would open things up, but the founders would still play a ma­jor role in the se­lec­tion pro­cess,” said one RSC steer­ing com­mit­tee mem­ber, who was not au­thor­ized to speak pub­licly about the rule change.

The pro­posed rule change must be rat­i­fied by the RSC mem­ber­ship. A vote will likely be held on Ju­ly 9, the same day mem­bers choose an in­ter­im chair­man.

Now that Woodall has been tapped to serve as a care­taker — with as­sur­ances that he will not seek a full term, and there­fore does not en­joy a head start on that com­pet­i­tion — the can­did­ates to be­come RSC chair­man in the next pro­gress will con­tin­ue cam­paign­ing for the reg­u­larly-sched­uled Novem­ber elec­tion.

Rep. Mick Mul­vaney of South Car­o­lina, who is enorm­ously pop­u­lar among young­er mem­bers in the group and has strong per­son­al re­la­tion­ships with the founders, is the early front-run­ner to take over in the 114th Con­gress. But sev­er­al oth­er law­makers are ex­pec­ted to com­pete with Mul­vaney for the RSC gavel. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas has already de­clared his can­did­acy, and Rep. Andy Har­ris of Mary­land is said to be ser­i­ously con­sid­er­ing a run.

Rep. Marlin Stutz­man of In­di­ana, who lost last week’s spe­cial elec­tion for ma­jor­ity whip, has not ruled out an RSC cam­paign. However, an­oth­er loser from last week’s elec­tions — Rep. Raul Lab­rador of Idaho — said defin­it­ively last Fri­day that he would not run for RSC chair­man.

This story was up­dated Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon after the RSC meet­ing.

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