Freedom Caucus: Leaders Blocked Us From Oversight Gavel

Conservatives contend GOP leaders urged Trey Gowdy to run for key chairmanship, pushing Jim Jordan aside.

Rep. Trey Gowdy
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Daniel Newhauser
Add to Briefcase
Daniel Newhauser
May 23, 2017, 4:30 p.m.

Rep. Trey Gowdy has lead­er­ship’s bless­ing to take the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee gavel, but House Free­dom Caucus mem­bers think lead­ers asked Gowdy to run in or­der to spite one of their own.

Con­ser­vat­ives are fum­ing this week that lead­er­ship is passing over Rep. Jim Jordan in fa­vor of the less-seni­or Gowdy for the prize com­mit­tee gavel.

Jordan, the found­ing chair­man of the Free­dom Caucus, showed in­terest in lead­ing the com­mit­tee in the wake of Chair­man Jason Chaf­fetz’s an­nounce­ment that he will resign in June. But sev­er­al mem­bers say lead­er­ship asked Gowdy to run in­stead.

“If it were a vote of the com­mit­tee mem­bers, it would be Jordan,” said one Free­dom Caucus mem­ber, who agreed to speak an­onym­ously to dis­cuss in­tern­al con­fer­ence de­cisions. “That Gowdy has been asked to do it in light of that … should be ob­vi­ously prob­lem­at­ic.”

In­deed, al­most half of the Re­pub­lic­ans on the Over­sight Com­mit­tee are mem­bers of the Free­dom Caucus. But un­for­tu­nately for them, and for Jordan, chair­man­ships are de­cided by the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee, an ad­min­is­trat­ive pan­el packed with lead­ers and lead­er­ship loy­al­ists. Jordan saw the writ­ing on the wall and passed on an un­real­ist­ic bid.

“You don’t want to ex­er­cise a pro­cess that is fu­tile from the start, which is why Jordan said, ‘If someone else is get­ting ap­poin­ted, then I’m not the anoin­ted one,’” said Rep. Mark San­ford, a Free­dom Caucus mem­ber who has also con­sidered run­ning for the chair­man­ship.

For HFC mem­bers, the in­cid­ent is yet an­oth­er re­mind­er that for all the power the group has wres­ted from lead­er­ship, it still is and will for the fore­see­able fu­ture be struc­tur­ally ham­strung when try­ing to take the leap in­to form­al­iz­ing its power.

In fact, it is ex­actly be­cause of the group’s ad­ept use of its size and its tend­ency to vote as a bloc, which it of­ten does to force lead­ers down a pre­ferred le­gis­lat­ive path, that in­di­vidu­al mem­bers of the group will be passed over for pro­mo­tions. Lead­ers re­ward team play­ers, and the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee, which chooses chair­man­ships, is full of them.

“People can want something all they want, but that doesn’t mean they’re go­ing to get it,” said one mem­ber of the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee. “There’s more re­sent­ment of what the Free­dom Caucus has cost our brand in the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee that the last thing you’re go­ing to want to do is hand the power of the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee to the damn Free­dom Caucus.”

That’s not ex­actly break­ing news to the Free­dom Caucus, either.

“Jim had seni­or­ity on it, and he’s a fight­er against the swamp and the es­tab­lish­ment. So lead­er­ship will make their call. But I don’t think any­one’s shocked,” Rep. Dave Brat said. “It’s a lead­er­ship call. It just comes down to that.”

The of­fices of Speak­er Paul Ry­an and House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy both de­clined to com­ment for this story.

Lead­er­ship has ample reas­on to in­stall a more loy­al mem­ber atop the Over­sight Com­mit­tee. It is the only com­mit­tee with the power to com­pel de­pos­itions by sub­poena, and to hand that power to someone lead­er­ship can­not trust nor con­trol could prove to be a mis­take, es­pe­cially as ques­tions swirl around the Trump cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia.

Jordan served du­ti­fully on the Benghazi Com­mit­tee, which Gowdy chaired, but after the in­vest­ig­a­tion, Jordan and then-Rep. Mike Pom­peo re­leased a re­port sep­ar­ate from Gowdy’s be­cause he be­lieved the chair­man did not go far enough in draw­ing con­clu­sions. Jordan has bucked lead­ers on over­sight mat­ters else­where as well. He was one of the mem­bers spear­head­ing an ul­ti­mately failed at­tempt to force a House vote to im­peach IRS Com­mis­sion­er John Koskin­en last year, des­pite the fact that lead­ers and rel­ev­ant com­mit­tee chairs wanted noth­ing to do with the ef­fort.

Gowdy, on the oth­er hand, is viewed as a team play­er, but he still has the con­ser­vat­ive bona fides and qual­i­fic­a­tions to ap­pease mem­bers of the Free­dom Caucus. A former pro­sec­utor with an acerbic wit, his chair­man­ship of the Benghazi Com­mit­tee cata­pul­ted him in­to con­ser­vat­ive celebrity­hood, and he is close with mem­bers of the Free­dom Caucus.

In fact, HFC mem­bers be­lieve he is so qual­i­fied for the job and has such a high pro­file among the Re­pub­lic­an base that he is the only per­son lead­er­ship could en­cour­age to run in­stead of Jordan who wouldn’t be met with total out­rage from the group.

“Lead­er­ship‘s go­ing with some­body that’s got a lot of juice in polit­ic­al terms,” San­ford said. “That’s just Polit­ic­al 101. He’s re­spec­ted by the Re­pub­lic­an base. He presents very well on tele­vi­sion, mak­ing the case.”

Gowdy de­clined to com­ment for this story, but his spokes­wo­man, Aman­da Gonza­lez, said he has not yet form­ally jumped in­to the race. “Rep. Gowdy is con­tinu­ing to speak with mem­bers in the con­fer­ence about the qual­it­ies they be­lieve are most im­port­ant for the next chair­man to pos­sess,” she said.

Mean­while, Rep. Steve Rus­sell said Tues­day he is also run­ning for the gavel. Rus­sell said he asked Gowdy’s ad­vice on the sub­ject be­fore Gowdy him­self was in the run­ning for the post, and that he was un­der the im­pres­sion as re­cently as a few weeks ago that Gowdy was not run­ning.

“He said he would not be pur­su­ing it. However, he did tell me hon­estly, as he al­ways does, that he was be­ing asked and pres­sured by a lot of people to con­sider it,” Rus­sell said. “Be­fore he had de­cided to enter the race, he had en­cour­aged me to do it. After he de­cided that he would be in it, he still en­cour­aged me to stay in it, to present my ideas.”

Rus­sell said he un­der­stands he would prob­ably be a long shot next to Gowdy, but noted that with Gowdy’s high pro­file, the chair­man­ship could be va­cant again in a few years and in that case, he could get a second look.

“Mr. Gowdy is a man of in­cred­ible in­tel­lect and ca­pa­city, and he’s also in high de­mand. Be­cause of that, I think we have to look long-range-stra­tegic­ally as well,” Rus­sell said. “Do we really think this will last six years? That’s the ques­tion we don’t know. So what I want to con­vey here is, ‘Hey, coach, you’ve got people that can play here.’”

What We're Following See More »
POTENTIAL CONTEMPT CHARGE
Nadler: Goodlatte Could Subpoena Rosenstein
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee says Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is poised to subpoena the Justice Department for former FBI Director James Comey’s memos, which the agency so far has failed to produce. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., warned such a move puts Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in jeopardy of being placed in contempt of Congress and the special counsel investigation of being shut down prematurely."

Source:
NO NEW FUNDING INCLUDED
House Ag Committee Passes Farm Bill
2 days ago
THE DETAILS
"On a party-line vote, the House Agriculture Committee approved a five-year farm bill on Wednesday that tweaks the supports now in place—a promise of certainty, leaders said, during a period of low commodity prices and threats of a trade war with agriculture on the front line." The bill includes no new funding over the last farm bill.
Source:
WOULD ASSURE ANYONE PARDONED BY TRUMP CAN BE PROSECUTED BY STATE
Schneiderman Urges NY Lawmakers to Close “Double Jeopardy Loophole”
2 days ago
THE LATEST
INTRO’d LAST NIGHT
Ryan Tamps Down AUMF Talk
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Referring to the AUMF introduced by Sens. Tim Kaine and Bob Corker Monday evening, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday "he won’t allow any bill to come to the House floor that he thinks would restrict military commanders’ ability to fight." Ryan "defended the legality of U.S. military strikes last week against chemical weapons-related sites in Syria, saying President Trump had the authority to order them under the Constitution’s Article II commander-in-chief powers."

PROSECUTORS WILL GET FIRST LOOK
Judge Denies Requests by Cohen, Trump
4 days ago
THE LATEST

Attorneys for both President Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen lost a court challenge today, as they sought to suppress evidence gathered in a raid of Cohen's office and hotel room. "U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood denied the requests and ruled that prosecutors will get first access to the information, followed by Cohen’s defense team ten days later. Wood noted that she has not yet decided whether she will appoint a special master in the case at all."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login