Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) is calling Members and conservative groups suggesting he may seek to take over the Republican Policy Committee after the midterm elections, according to GOP sources familiar with his effort.
Chairman Thaddeus McCotter has said the committee should be shut down next year and told Roll Call on Friday that he does not intend to serve another term.
The Michigan Republican said last week that the committee, founded in 1949, has become redundant because of the creation of Republican solutions groups and policy operations in other leadership offices. He said its $360,000 budget should go to the Treasury to pay down the debt.
That proposal touched off a dispute between McCotter and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), but McCotter said Friday that he and Cantor have come to an agreement to let the Republican Conference in the 112th Congress decide the fate of the policy committee.
Ryan Murphy, a spokesman for Price, did not comment directly on the Georgia Republican’s phone calls or ambitions for the post.
“Congressman Price is ready and willing to serve in whatever capacity best helps the team,” Murphy said in an e-mail.
Price’s two-year term as the head of the RSC expires at the end of the 111th Congress, leaving many Republicans to speculate that he would seek a seat at the leadership table next year.
Rep. Michael Burgess, who challenged McCotter for the post in 2008, also said that if the Policy Committee remains active next Congress, he would like to lead it.
“I don’t think it should be a choice between cutting the budget or cutting the Policy Committee,” the Texas Republican said. “I think we are smart enough to do both.”
He added, “If the budget for the Policy Committee is too high, we’ll cut it.” Burgess has also been making phone calls to other Members to reiterate his interest in the post.
Taxpayer funds pay for all Congressional leadership offices. The Policy Committee has the smallest budget of the top four GOP leadership offices.
McCotter told Roll Call last week that Cantor and Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) balked at the idea of killing the committee when Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) brought it up during a recent leadership meeting.
Republicans need to “make sure that YouCut becomes we cut’ first,'” McCotter said at the time, referring to Cantor’s program to cut federal spending.
Republicans have privately accused McCotter of allowing the committee to languish and of failing to perform the duties of the chairmanship.
House Democratic staff spent the week highlighting the division within the Republican ranks, gleefully e-mailing to reporters comments McCotter made on various television shows.
One House Republican aide said Boehner was unhappy with McCotter, his close ally, for publicly attacking other leaders.
“It does nothing but stir the pot when there’s no need to,” the aide said.
The aide contended that Boehner was not completely onboard with McCotter’s proposal and that he had told the Michigan Republican the idea would be discussed after the midterm elections.
It would not be the first time that McCotter has split from other party leaders.
Last year, he was the only member of the Republican leadership in the House and Senate to opt out of Cantor’s travelling policy discussion group, dubbed the National Council for a New America.
In 2007, he was the only member of leadership to disassociate himself from “Reasons to Believe,” a rebranding effort Republicans had hoped would energize and revive their political base before the 2008 elections.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in an e-mail, “No decision has been made regarding the future of the policy committee, and no decision will be made until our conference has a full discussion.” Steel added that Boehner “believes our entire team needs to be 100-percent focused on holding Washington Democrats accountable for their job-killing agenda.”
McCotter said Friday that he and Cantor agreed that their focus should be on electing as many Republicans as possible this fall.
According to the GOP’s internal rules, the full Conference would have to vote to eliminate the committee.
Nevertheless, a House GOP aide said McCotter could simply stop spending its budget.
“Congressman McCotter could immediately stop spending money on the Policy Committee itself — on his own without a vote by the Conference — and the result would be the same as eliminating it,” the aide said.
But McCotter said this is not his intent. “We never said to kill it now,” he said.
Burgess said he has spoken to “a few” members of the Conference about the committee and doubted there would be Conference-wide support to eliminate it.