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Roskam Says He’s At Peace in Rank and File — for Now

Roskam walks across the East Plaza as he leaves the Capitol in July 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Roskam walks across the East Plaza as he leaves the Capitol in July 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Peter Roskam isn’t running for leadership — right now.  

The Illinois Republican, who has readily allowed himself to be the subject of intense speculation as to his ambitions in the days since Speaker John A. Boehner announced his Oct. 30 resignation, on Tuesday evening sought to lay the rumors to rest.  

“Yeah I don’t have any plans,” Roskam told CQ Roll Call. “I’m not making any calls, I’m not doing anything.” The explanation could seem especially anticlimactic given the fact that Roskam has spent the past several days working hard to be noticed for his efforts to delay leadership elections until after House Republicans had a chance to gather and reflect on the extraordinary events that brought them to this point. (That meeting, which many described as a “therapy session,” took place Tuesday.)  

He has granted multiple interviews in order to discuss his ideas for how to facilitate better dialogue within the GOP conference and what he thinks needs to change to ease the dysfunction. And most of all, he has let people believe he could declare his candidacy for speaker, leader or whip at any time.  

CQ Roll Call asked him directly why he would go through all this effort if he didn’t have ambitions or ulterior motives.  

After all, Congress isn’t a place where people merely do things out of the goodness of their hearts, and surely Roskam — who was stripped of his appointed position as chief deputy whip last year when he lost his race for whip to Steve Scalise of Louisiana — must be longing for a way out of the rank and file.  

During a brief one-on-one interview following a pen-and-pad discussion with a group of reporters to recap the members’ meeting he helped orchestrate, Roskam tried to explain his thinking:

“When I lost last year, I had a decision to make: You can either moan and groan or you can say, ‘There’s lots of ways to be helpful.’ All growing up, my dad told me, literally, ‘Life is choices, make good choices.’ So I chose to figure, ‘How can I be helpful?’

“I can be helpful right now in trying to frame out some parameters, speak to people who are aspiring to the leadership, because I’ve been at that leadership table, and I know what it’s like to speak to members, because I am a member. I’ve been in a competitive race, you know what I mean? So I have an ability to bring voice to some of these things — and from my point of view, I would love to serve in a majority that is highly functional.”

Of course, Roskam won’t rule out a leadership bid down the road.  

“I’m not closing the door,” he said.  

At his meeting with reporters Tuesday, Roskam threw out some ideas for what he thought the conference needed to think about in advance of leadership elections, which could take place as soon as next week.  

He said he thought all members should articulate, in writing, ways in which Congress could reassert its authority over the executive branch. He suggested leaders might, with some intentionality, delegate important responsibilities to a few appointed, trusted and capable colleagues.  

Roskam clarified he wasn’t trying to suggest he would be one of those lawmakers attending to what he called “ministerial duties” like analyzing suspension bills.  

Ultimately, Roskam suggested he took an existential view of himself in Congress.  

“What I figured out is, nobody’s going to remember us after we leave here. Like, nobody. The shelf life of being a member of Congress is zero,” he said. “So in light of that, there’s a lot of freedom in that. So this is something that I feel, this is a way for me to be helpful right now.”  

How he might be helpful next time, however, is still an open question.


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