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House GOP Backs Secret Ballot for Steering Committee Spots

The House Republican Conference decided Thursday to hold secret ballot votes for regional and class representatives to the Republican Steering Committee.

The amendment to the conference rules was brought forth by Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who on Wednesday was elected by her class to become conference vice chairwoman.

“Currently, there is no uniform process to select regional representatives to serve on the Steering Committee. Employing a secret ballot provides a standardized procedure for use during the selection of both class and regional representatives. The secret ballot is a fundamental American principle, and this is simply an effort to hold ourselves to the same values that we promote to the nation,” the Kansas Republican said in a statement.

It was the only rules change adopted by the conference. A number of other proposals were defeated or withdrawn.

GOP Rep. Don Young of Alaska planned to bring up an amendment that would have done away with the ban on earmarks, but he pulled the measure after discussion with other members, according to a source in the room.

The amendment would have kept the earmark ban intact “except if the recipient of the earmark is the Federal Government, a State, or a unit of local government, the Member sponsoring such earmark is identified, the earmark is initiated in committee, and the earmark falls within the applicable section 302(a) allocation,” according to a summary of the amendment shared with Roll Call.

GOP Rep. Bill Posey of Florida also withdrew an amendment. His would have banned members from campaigning for elected leadership spots until 90 days before a general election.

“Soliciting for or giving a pledge of support prior to 90 days before the date of a general election shall be considered a breach of a Member’s personal honor,” the amendment reads.

But he pulled it after some questions arose about how to implement it and what to do with vacancies, according to his staff.

An amendment that would have created a health care committee failed. Republican Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, who sponsored the amendment, said in a letter to colleagues that he wanted a committee solely focused on repealing the 2010 health care law.

An amendment from GOP Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia also failed. It would have ensured that time spent as a ranking member of a committee or subcommittee would count only as half time toward a mandatory three-term limit to be the top Republican on the committee.