Republicans Meet To Discuss Tough Three-Way Race For Oversight Chairman

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The Republican Steering Committee will meet Monday at 1 p.m. on Capitol Hill to discuss the race to replace Rep. Darrell Issa as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman.

The meeting is described as being similar to “being called to the principal’s office.” Each candidate has prepared a presentation to the Steering Committee, on which Speaker John Boehner has five votes and most of the voting power is held by House GOP leadership, including Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy. But coming off a midterm win, the pick is really Boehner’s to make.

Issa, who is leaving the post he popularized due to term limits, is apparently making it known that he wants Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan to succeed him to carry on the investigative work that Issa’s committee did on the IRS targeting and Benghazi scandals. But with Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Ohio Rep. Mike Turner running for the chairmanship, the race is by no means settled. Here’s an analysis of the top three candidates angling for the job:

Rep. Jim Jordan: The Ohio congressman is a principled conservative. Jordan has earned the respect of his peers as chairman of Oversight’s subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs, and has done admirable investigative work on the IRS targeting scandal and Benghazi and highlighted issues at the Export-Import Bank before they became national news. Jordan has clashed with House Republican leadership on multiple occasions in the past four years. GOP leadership is looking at Jordan’s candidacy in political terms. If they pass him over, they stand to alienate 40-60 conservative House Republicans that want a strong watchdog in the Oversight chair heading into the 2016 election, where the Oversight Committee will continue to play an important political role. If they choose him for the chairmanship, then Republican leadership will have better political unity heading into its third term in the House majority.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz: Unlike Jordan, Chaffetz is a media-savvy congressman, which represents a strong political advantage for Republicans who want to highlight the IRS scandal and especially Benghazi ahead of Hillary Clinton’s presumptive run for the presidency. Chaffetz’s dramatic lines of questioning in IRS hearings and facility for media exposure gives him a leg up with two years to go until the most media-oriented election in U.S. history, but it remains unclear whether Republican leadership is willing to give Chaffetz that level of exposure at such a critical time. Regardless, Chaffetz is seen as an ally of leadership, which gives him a certain advantage over Jordan.

Rep. Mike Turner: This candidate is very much about being out of the spotlight and focusing on “good government work” that the committee can do, which will not focus on the administration scandal investigations that Oversight became famous for under Issa. In fact, Turner is making a conscious effort to present himself as the anti-Issa after years of Democratic and mainstream media criticism of Issa’s supposedly showboat-y tactics. But Oversight has very little legislative power and a lot more power when it comes to presiding over administration wrongdoing. Boehner notably passed Turner over for a seat on the Appropriations Committee a few years ago, giving the “Ohio seat” instead to moderate Rep. Steve LaTourette. Does that mean Turner is on the outs with Boehner, or now due for a makeup appointment?

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