The Next House Leadership Race Is Already Starting

Rep. Luke Messer is running to be the House’s fifth-ranking Republican.

Rep. Luke Messer stands behind Speaker Bohener at a conference on Capitol Hill April 10, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Billy House
July 10, 2014, 10:22 a.m.

Now that the House lead­er­ship elec­tions are over, it’s time for an­oth­er go-round.

At least, that’s how Rep. Luke Mess­er of In­di­ana sees it. On Thursday, he con­firmed he’s already run­ning to be­come the next chair­man of the House Re­pub­lic­an Policy Com­mit­tee — the fifth-rank­ing po­s­i­tion in party’s lead­er­ship lad­der.

Mess­er, who is cur­rently the House GOP fresh­man class pres­id­ent, says he’s telling Re­pub­lic­an col­leagues this week he wants their sup­port this fall when in­tern­al party elec­tions are again held — and has been en­cour­aged by the re­sponses.

Why so early? “Time flies. We’ve got less than 25 le­gis­lat­ive days this year,” ex­plains Mess­er, 45, “then there’s the elec­tion.”

And it’s dur­ing the lame-duck ses­sion after the Nov. 4 elec­tion that reelec­ted mem­bers and new mem­bers-elect from both parties will choose their new team of lead­ers for the next ses­sion that be­gins in Janu­ary.

The job of Re­pub­lic­an Policy Com­mit­tee chair is now held by Rep. James Lank­ford of Ok­lahoma. But Lank­ford won his GOP Sen­ate primary in that state, and will not be re­turn­ing to the lead­er­ship post.

The role of the com­mit­tee’s chair­man is to over­see its pre­par­a­tion of is­sue and policy pa­pers for the con­fer­ence, work with rank-and-file mem­bers to de­vel­op their own le­gis­la­tion, and put those ideas in bill and amend­ment form.

It’s the House lead­er­ship post — be­low speak­er, ma­jor­ity lead­er, ma­jor­ity whip, and con­fer­ence chair­man — for someone who can fo­cus on minor de­tails of polit­ic­al policy.

“It’s a job for a wonk. I con­sider my­self a wonk,” Mess­er said.

Does he at all feel sheep­ish about run­ning for a lead­er­ship post, while still serving in his first term of Con­gress?

Mess­er says cat­egor­ic­ally “no.” In fact, he says that at the end of the next elec­tion, “more than half of the U.S. Con­gress would be made up of people here less than five years.”

He said it will be im­port­ant for these new­er mem­bers to have someone on the lead­er­ship team.

Mess­er says he hasn’t heard yet about any oth­er as­pir­ants for the job. But then again, it’s early.

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