One of the more important rituals after a federal election is the selection by the House and Senate party caucuses of their leadership. In the case of the House majority, of course, their maximum leader typically becomes speaker. They also designate from their ranks others to fill leadership roles.
In the (sort of) wake of the recent election, the House Republicans are scheduled on Nov. 15 to make these selections. (RELATED: MCKENNA: Don’t Like This Election’s Outcome? Don’t Worry, There Will Be Another One Shortly)
With the speaker and majority leader almost certainly decided, the next most senior office that is being contested is majority whip. The whip is supposed to be a conduit between members and leadership, transferring concerns and information between the two.
Those with a generational perspective and a clear memory of former Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay well remember that the whip can be the most important figure in leadership.
Consequently, it is not surprising that the current contest for Republican whip has been spirited, if somewhat sotto voce. The three candidates — Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer and Georgia Rep. Drew Ferguson – are each outstanding in their own way. Mr. Ferguson is the chief deputy whip. Mr. Emmer is the current chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, where he successfully led the Republicans to the majority. Mr. Banks is currently the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, which is the largest group of conservatives in the House.
Like all of us, each candidate has strengths and weaknesses.
For his part, Mr. Banks has a wealth of experience dealing with large groups of Republican lawmakers. He currently chairs the Republican Study Committee, a conservative policy shop which has over 160 members and is the largest caucus of conservative legislators in Congress. That has given him invaluable experience building consensus among a sizeable — and sometimes fractious — majority of the Republican conference.
Mr. Banks would also be the only veteran on the House leadership team, and has a deep understanding of national security policy. In 2015 and 2016, then-state Sen. Banks deployed to Afghanistan during Operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel. Mr. Banks currently serves as a member of the House Committee on Armed Services (and in the U.S. Navy Reserve) and the House Committee on Education and Labor.
The reality of leadership contests is that they are more like fraternity chapter elections than anything else. As such, the advice of outsiders is often unwelcome.
That said, it seems clear that Mr. Banks best matches the ideological tenor of the caucus, as well as the tempo and urgency of the moment. His relationships with coalition partners — he consistently engages conservative groups in the policy process — and his ability to bring them along on policy fights is unmatched.
Congressman Banks has received the Family Research Council’s “True Blue” award for his 100% pro-life, pro-family voting record, the NFIB’s “Guardian of Small Business” award and the FreedomFighter Award from FreedomWorks in recognition of his dedication to economic freedom and personal liberty. His lifetime American Conservative Union rating — one measure of a Member’s voting record — is 93.75 (the highest of any of the candidates for the Whip spot).
The quality of its leaders is not necessarily dispositive with respect to the performance of the House Republican caucus, but leaders who are best aligned with the caucus and most aggressive in their approaches to policy usually get better results.
Members will, of course, make their own decisions about their leadership, as they should. As they make those decisions, they should be mindful of the history, capabilities and default policy preferences of those who are running, and choose accordingly.
Michael McKenna is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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