After the Republicans picked up nine House seats in the 2020 election, eyes are on House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for a strategy that can damper extremists from steamrolling progressive policies through the legislative process.
The lynch pin for any strategy to combat the Democrats’ legislative priorities lies in the GOP’s committee appointments and leadership. Party leadership decides which members are put on which committees and further which member is designated as most senior on each committee and subcommittee. Unruly or “difficult” representatives, those that challenge the Republican establishment, are frequently punished with assignments to less significant and powerless positions to keep them under control and to weaken their prospects for re-election. If voters don’t see their representative engaged in important political battles, it’s harder for them to get re-elected. They can be replaced with a more tractable politician, a “team player” during the primary process. As you can see, committee assignments are less about expertise and suitability and more about political maneuvering.
At this critical time, leader McCarthy is playing the business-as-usual political game. He recently selected Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) as the ranking or senior member on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C). She was selected over Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) who McCarthy most likely disregarded because, as E&E News describes, Burgess is “a conservative doctor and lead critic of President Obama’s health care plan” and “an ally of fossil fuel interests.”
By contrast, McMorris Rodgers (and McCarthy who supports her) is a squishy moderate. She is already putting weak moderates in leadership positions on the E&C subcommittees. This is because McMorris Rodgers “is signaling a potentially more bipartisan and less ideological push on energy and environmental issues with her ranking member choices.”
“The Energy and Commerce Committee has a rich history of solving the biggest challenges facing our country,” McMorris Rodgers said in announcing the picks. E&E explains McMorris Rodgers’ choices show “that she sees the role of GOP members as more than simply fighting Democratic proposals.” Really? GOP politicians are elected precisely to fight the Democrats’ wacky proposals. Did any GOP congressfolk campaign with a promise not to fight the Democrat policy platforms?
One particularly pernicious subcommittee assignment by McMorris Rodgers is the snubbing of Rep. Burgess to continue in his position as ranking member on the Health subcommittee. Burgess is a physician, yet he was removed as part of the GOP plan to do more than “simply” fight the Democrats. McMorris Rodgers explained her decision: “it’s been 10 years, and Americans still don’t trust Republicans on health care.” What better way to gain that trust than to remove an actual doctor from influence on the Health subcommittee?
Just to give you a snapshot into GOP establishment’s braintrust, the move to elevate the ideologically weak is part of the effort to “win hearts and minds” to take back the House.
The GOP will very likely still disagree with the Democrats’ upcoming environmental push but can do so without appearing overtly hostile to addressing the climate crisis, which voters from both parties want tackled.
McMorris Rodgers campaigned for full committee ranking member by promising to use her skills as a messenger to make GOP policies more palatable to voters.
Climate change is a niche and boutique concern among people who can afford to have their energy costs tripled. It was not a factor in the 2020 election, according to exit polling. This ladies and gentlemen, is how the political sausage is made. After the GOP gained seats in the House undoubtedly on the coat tails of the straight talking and blunt President Trump, the Republicans plan to woo more voters for victory with soft emotional and “palatable” policy marketing. Give me a break.
McCarthy is already failing and he’s barely gotten started.