Wednesday, October 05, 2005

RSC: Curb spending now!

Minnesota’s Rep. Gil Gutknecht is an influential member of the conservative group that seeks to curb spending.

Unrest stirs as members see chance
By Alexander Bolton

Members of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) say they will consider a petition calling for leadership elections next year unless the House GOP leaders endorse offsets for spending on hurricane relief.

Members of the Republican class of 1994 are also itching to use the current unrest to gain a foothold in the top leadership echelons.

With the ’94 class membership overlapping with the RSC, there is a growing fervor in the conference for cutting the size of government and curbing federal spending.

Discontent over spending has flared anew in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and in light of estimates that the final bill will exceed $200 billion.

Unlike past periods of dissatisfaction over spending, such as in the Medicare prescription-drug bill and the farm-subsidy bill in the last Congress, conservative lawmakers finally see an opportunity to shake up the party leadership unless their demands are met.

Rank-and-file lawmakers have leverage because they can call for elections at the beginning of a new session. Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) reminded the conference of this last week to smooth approval of Rep. Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) ascension to majority leader after Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) stepped aside under indictment.

Any 50 Republican lawmakers can call for a meeting of the GOP conference, during which leaders may be voted on. Hastert urged colleagues to hold off until the year’s end.

A member of the RSC, a caucus of some 100 conservatives, told The Hill that conservatives would consider circulating a petition for leadership elections in January if Blunt and other leaders oppose a package of spending offsets.

The package, “Operation Offset,” is a menu of cuts to help pay for disaster relief. It includes delaying the prescription-drug program for one year, repealing earmarks in the 2006 highway bill, reducing Medicaid administrative spending, slashing farm subsidies and ending subsidized loans to graduate students.

A second member of the RSC noted that Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), a member of the conservative group as well as a member of the class of ’94, is openly discussing a run for majority whip.

“If there are no offsets, its going to create a lot of problems for those in leadership,” said Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.). “I can’t say specifically if offsets are not had what will happen.”

Members of the class of ’94 are eyeing a top leadership spot. “If Mr. DeLay’s situation is he can’t return to that position in the short term, months, I believe there would be others in my class in addition to Zach who would look at that position,” Jones said. “People I’ve had informal discussions with feel as I do. There’s a lot of frustration.”

Of the 73 Republicans elected to the House in 1994, 30 remain. Many of them, such as Reps. Gil Gutknecht (Minn.) and Sue Myrick (N.C.), are influential members of the RSC. Members of the class held a 10-year reunion this year and reminisced about the past but also discussed the desire to be more vocal advocates of fiscal restraint and to play a more prominent role in leadership.

Wamp said he has been encouraged by his fellow classmates to run for a top leadership position, noting that Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) is chairman of the Republican Policy Committee but that the class of ’94 has been shut out of the top four leadership positions.

“I’ve been greatly encouraged to pursue a leadership position by many members of our class, including those not in the House,” Wamp said, naming Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), all of whom entered the House after the 1994 election.

Wamp claimed to see a “renaissance of members wanting to step up” who are “effective” and “underutilized.”

But he indicated he will wait until the end of the 109th Congress.

Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), another member of the class of ’94, said that he has not been contacted by classmates jockeying for leadership positions but that he expects colleagues are waiting for their chance.

“There’s a lot of turmoil [in leadership], and we’re watching closely,” he said. “I’m not sure it will happen overnight, but this is a competitive business and people are looking for openings.”

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), RSC chairman, said he was not aware of a quid pro quo between offsets and conference loyalty to leadership, but added that leadership and President Bush now supported the offsets package.

Republican leaders initially dismissed the package and reportedly scolded Pence for pushing it.

But President Bush yesterday called on Congress to pay for Katrina relief with spending cuts and said he would work with lawmakers to identify offsets.

“It’s true that Operation Offset crated some friction within the Republican Conference,” Pence said, but “what we saw after a pretty bumpy first week was the Republican leadership of the House and White House reaching out to conservatives.”
(Source: The Hill, Oct. 5, 2005)


At 3:37 PM, Blogger North Star Politics said...

When Pres. George W. Bush says to jump, Rep. Gil Gutknecht asks "how high?" Gutknecht has voted with Tom Delay 91% of the time between Jan. 1 2004 and March 31 2005. This, of course, is the Tom Delay who,"[a]sked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good.""

Rep. Gil Gutknecht - just another hypocrite.


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