July 2, 2010, 12:17 a.m.
By Jackie Kucinich
Roll Call Staff
The chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee has caused friction among his fellow leaders this week over his plan to terminate the position and return the office funds to the Treasury Department to pay down the national debt.
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter said Thursday that he suggested the idea to phase out the committee to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) months ago. The Michigan Republican said its main purpose had been replaced by Republican solutions groups and policy shops created by other leadership offices.
“With all the talk of spending and cutting, this chance to lead by example, reform our own operations and return $360,000 to the Treasury for deficit reduction strikes me as exactly what the public wants us to start doing,” McCotter said. Taxpayer funds pay for Congressional leadership offices.
But according to McCotter, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) balked at the idea when Boehner brought it up during the daily leadership meeting Wednesday. McCarthy, Cantor and a spokesman for Boehner declined to comment Thursday night.
“The leader has been apprised how we were winding down the committee. He gave [the committee] the final charge to put out a 20-year agenda, which we’ve done,” McCotter said, referring to the policy committee’s pamphlet titled, “We the People: Wide Awake.” “So having done what the leader asked us to do, the leader agreed that, ‘OK, it’s time to start leading by example.’ John’s always been about that.
“I think that given time, I’m convinced that Kevin and Eric will see that this is the chance for us to show we are leading by example and do the right thing by the taxpayers,” McCotter added. “I’m sure they’ll be on board with this.”
He added, “Make sure that YouCut becomes ‘we cut first,’” referring to Cantor’s program to cut federal spending.
The Republican Policy Committee was created by the House Republican Conference in 1949, according to the committee’s website. One GOP aide noted that a single member cannot choose to abolish the committee or to block it from elimination. Those decisions must be made by the entire House Republican Conference under the rules.
This is not the first time that McCotter has butted heads with Cantor. Last year, he was the only member of the Republican leadership in the House and Senate to opt out of the GOP whip’s National Council for a New America.
McCotter said at the time that the group, made up of House and Senate Republicans and national GOP leaders, would dilute House efforts to establish a strong GOP identity.
Members of the Conference have quietly criticized McCotter during his tenure for not doing enough with the policy committee. He rejected the notion Thursday, saying the committee’s existence is just no longer necessary.
“You’ve got a man saying that the job has fulfilled its mission, you have the document and the people who like it and have shown it,” McCotter said. “The job is already done. If I just wanted to sit around doing nothing, I’d keep the committee.”
Among my favorite stories from political lore is that of a candidate who runs on a platform of eliminating the office they seek. It mostly plays out on the local level, where slightly odd and antiquated offices can stack up like lemurs on a Madagascar beach. Rarely does this play out on the national level, until now.
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter is Chair of the Republican Policy Committee, the number 4 position in House GOP Leadership. It’s website provides the following description of the Committee:
Envisioned as the principal forum for the consideration of forward-looking legislative initiatives, the Republican Policy Committee is an important means for every Member of the Republican Conference to develop sound legislative ideas into meaningful legislation.
Created just over 50 years ago, the Committee is charged with establishing conference-wide policy for the House GOP. But, it isn’t just a forum; it has its own taxpayer-funded budget. The $400,000 taxpayers kick in to fund the Committee is just a small blip in the federal budget, but blips add up. Eliminating thousands of line-items like this are critical to getting the overall budget under control.
And, Rep. McCotter has taken the lead. He wants to eliminate his own Committee and give the money back to taxpayers.
In some respects, McCotter’s move to eliminate the position is obvious; does the GOP really need a stand-alone, taxpayer-funded Committee to establish its policy positions? With the Constitution as a guide and a basic understanding of free market economics, what more could a GOP member need to discern their policy positions. After all, it is pretty basic.
In fact, soon after taking charge of the Committee, Rep. McCotter oversaw the creation of the document, “We the People: Wide Awake for our Newest Birth of Freedom”, detailing the basic principles that should guide GOP policy. Impossible to go wrong if you stick to these:
- Our liberty is from God not the government;
- Our sovereignty is in our souls not the soil;
- Our security is from strength not surrender;
- Our prosperity is from the private sector not the public sector; and
- Our truths are self-evident not relative
But, McCotter’s move is more than just eliminating a silly redundancy. The move to eliminate the Committee would also remove a position from GOP Leadership. Unsurprisingly, that has met resistance from some of his colleagues. From today’s Roll Call:
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) balked at the idea [of eliminating the Committee] when Boehner brought it up during the daily leadership meeting Wednesday. McCarthy, Cantor and a spokesman for Boehner declined to comment Thursday night.
This is both ridiculous and, unfortunately, unsurprising. Even GOP members have a hard time letting go of an automatic annual budget, which can be used to hire staff and raise a member’s profile. Moreover, a position in GOP leadership has its own value, one that can be traded to help a member’s rise up the leadership ladder. It is an important tool in how politics is done.
But, it is time for that to stop. The challenges our nation faces are daunting. The odd $400,000 spent by the GOP Policy Committee won’t make a difference in the overall budget, but it stands as an important principle. If the GOP can’t commit to eliminating silly things like their own Policy Committee, how can they take a hard look at other wasteful items in the budget? The GOP, under Rep. Cantor’s leadership, is promoting its “You Cut” initiative, where citizens can recommend budget cuts. Perhaps it should establish a “We Cut First” initiative.
The GOP famously lost its way in the majority and became addicted to spending and earmarks as a way to hold on to political power. It is now telling the public that they’ve learned a lesson and can be trusted to control spending. Supporting McCotter’s move is an important test case.
Jack W. Daly, Esq.
Office of U.S. Representative Thaddeus G. McCotter (MI-11)