GOP Pressuring McCrery to Run Again

Posted February 27, 2004 at 5:05pm

Fearful of having to contest yet another competitive open seat, House Republican leaders are working to convince Louisiana Rep. Jim McCrery (R) to run for re-election this fall.

Although he is considered a prime candidate to be the next chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the nine-term lawmaker has said he is seriously weighing whether he should retire from the House to spend more time with his family.

McCrery met with Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) last week and has also spoken to Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) about his future.

McCrery said the leaders had been very supportive of him and had encouraged him to remain in the House. He also acknowledged that the possibility of garnering the Ways and Means gavel would certainly play a part in his decision.

“That’s something that I have thought about and factored into my thought process,” McCrery said. “I’m assuming that I can be Ways and Means chairman.”

McCrery is currently seventh in seniority on the committee’s GOP roster, but he is viewed as being adept at both policy and politics and is current Chairman Bill Thomas’ (R-Calif.) closest ally on the panel.

Republican Members and aides said the leadership would not make any promises to McCrery regarding the Ways and Means gavel, but they acknowledged that if McCrery stays in the House he would be the clear frontrunner to replace Thomas in the 110th Congress.

Thomas is term-limited as chairman, and several Republican Members said they believed there was no chance he would be given a waiver to remain atop the panel beyond the next Congress.

Sources close to the leadership also said they were convinced McCrery’s desire to be closer to his family is genuine and that the Louisianan’s flirtation with retirement was not a strategic gambit to increase his chances of winning the gavel.

If McCrery does leave, the race for Ways and Means would be wide open, with GOP Reps. Clay Shaw (Fla.), Nancy Johnson (Conn.), Dave Camp (Mich.), Jim Nussle (Iowa) and Rob Portman (Ohio) all viewed as legitimate potential candidates.

A McCrery departure would also force Republicans to pour resources into holding the competitive 4th district, where several candidates from both parties are making plans to run in case he does decide to go. Louisiana’s 1st, 3rd and 7th districts will also be open.