The White House Wants Allies in Oversight Positions

If you want to get a sense for how seriously House Republicans take their oversight responsibilities, you need not look further than the comments of Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida who serves on the Judiciary Committee. He’s supporting Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio’s bid to take over the GOP’s top “ranking member” position on Judiciary despite the fact that Jordan only ranks eighth in seniority.

In truth, the Republicans serving on the committee were decimated in the midterms. The chairman, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia decided to retire. Other members who retired or sought other offices include: Darrell Issa of California, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, and Raúl Labrador of Idaho. Meanwhile, both Karen C. Handel of Georgia and Keith Rothfus of Pennsylvania were defeated.

Technically, Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is next in line, but he’s already served as the head of Judiciary
and appears to be ineligible. Running instead, in addition to Rep. Jordan, are Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio and Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia. Based on seniority, the job should go to Chabot, but Rep. Gaetz thinks that Chabot and Collins are the wrong men for the job.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, said Jordan is the best choice to be the Republican face of the committee while the GOP is in the minority.

“Collins and Chabot are fine legislators. They have great skill in developing legislation and a vision for leadership. They’d make the best chairmen of the committee,” he said in a statement to POLITICO. “Neither is qualified to be ranking member now. Neither has attended the depositions of key witnesses in the committee’s most important investigations. Jim knows how to fight the battle we are facing. He has internalized the facts and timeline. If he isn’t the ranking member, President Trump will be without the most capable defense we could otherwise offer.”

“Kevin McCarthy,” Gaetz continued, “has the power to make Jim Jordan the lead Republican on Judiciary. If he doesn’t, he is actively screwing President Trump. And they both know it.”

Rep. Gaetz knows that the Judiciary Committee will handle any impeachment hearings, should they occur, as well as many other oversight hearings. He told Bloomberg News that “this committee is going to be covered like the O.J. trial.” He couldn’t be less interested in getting to the truth of how the Russians interfered in our elections or how they might do so again in the future. He doesn’t care in the slightest whether the Trump administration has acted lawfully.  He is ready to do battle and offer “the most capable defense.”

The White House sees things much the same way and is hoping to convince soon-to-be House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California to place Rep. Jordan as ranking member on Judiciary, as well as Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina in the top spot of the Committee of Oversight and Government Reform. There are six members of the Oversight Committee with more seniority than Rep. Meadows, so neither of these moves can be approved without causing some resentment and consternation within the caucus.

GOP leaders are set to informally discuss the matter Tuesday night as they begin to organize for the next Congress. The Republican Steering Committee, a group of several dozen lawmakers close to GOP leaders, is ultimately responsible for recommending ranking members. Both men would have to be elected to the positions, though lawmakers give leaders’ preferences ample consideration before voting. The Steering Committee meets Wednesday and Thursday.

Reportedly, it is David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski who are pushing this process on the behalf of Donald Trump, showing again that Chief of Staff John Kelly has little control over the West Wing.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.