The avalanche of Republican retirements is creating a chance for once-unthinkable lawmakers to rise to powerful positions

source
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

  • Several Republican committee chairs in the House are retiring in 2018.
  • The prominent departures could allow more conservative members to rise up in the ranks.

WASHINGTON – A slew of retirements from prominent Republicans in the House could open doors for some of the conference’s most conservative members, many of whom have been shunned by leadership over the past decade.

Several Republicans who chair House committees are stepping down in 2018, including Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, and Budget Chairwoman Diane Black, who is leaving Congress to run for governor of Tennessee. The three retirements come after Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz abruptly stepped down this summer to take on a contributor role at Fox News.

Because so many Republican committee heads are leaving Capitol Hill, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus would like to see like-minded conservatives rise in the ranks.

“Let’s hope and we’re working on that,” said Jim Jordan, who previously chaired the Freedom Caucus. “There’s some talented folks in the Freedom Caucus and hope some of them can be chairmen at some point.”

North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, who currently chairs the caucus of 31 conservatives, said there are Republicans who should be in higher roles that are not, due to the establishment nature of the Republican Steering Committee.

“Steering committee normally picks who the next chairmen are going to be,” Meadows said. “That normally does not bode well for Freedom Caucus members.”

Past attempts to move Freedom Caucus members into chair positions have failed. When Chaffetz retired in June, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy took the helm of the Oversight Committee, for which many conservatives thought Jordan would have been the obvious choice. Since Gowdy took the spot, Jordan should definitely be next in line, according to Meadows.

“Should Jim Jordan be the chairman of Oversight?” he said. “Without a doubt if Chairman Gowdy moves on.”

Meadows added that with each departure, new opportunities can arise, including Goodlatte’s retirement announcement on Thursday.

Virginia Rep. Dave Brat, who famously unseated former Republican Majority Whip Eric Cantor, said climbing the House ladder should not be the challenge that it is.

“You just show we’re the group that kept our word,” he said. “You got a Republican platform that says you’re gonna repeal Obamacare. Our group can go home and out in the press and say we’ve kept our word on the entire Republican platform. Other folks haven’t.”

“We’ve got a very good track record of being 100 percent and voting 100 percent on the Republican platform, where some people run on it and they don’t come through in the end with the votes and that’s a problem for us right now,” Brat added. “That’s part of the Virginia problem yesterday in the election.”

Iowa Rep. Steve King, who is among one of the most far-right members of the House but is not a member of the Freedom Caucus, told Business Insider that he does not view the current GOP leadership as “being as anywhere as near as hostile to conservatives” as former Speaker John Boehner was, although, he said he doesn’t see them “embracing full-throated conservatism.”

King said significant losses in the upcoming elections could reshape the Republican leadership as well, and that the mix of new candidates could be a “a sign that our conference could become a little more conservative along those lines.”

“So we’ll see and if there was significant loss of seats, that generally and historically triggers some leadership challenges along the way,” King said.