Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and French Hill, both former bankers, are early front-runners in a race to replace Rep. Patrick T. McHenry as the top Republican on the Financial Services Committee, according to colleagues and K Street observers.
McHenry, R-N.C., decided this month to leave Congress at the end of his term, turning attention to the pool of subcommittee chairs and senior committee members who could step into his shoes in 2025.
“What’s interesting about this race is you’ve got actually a lot of really strong horses,” said Mark Epley, a partner at Arnold & Porter. Luetkemeyer, of Missouri, and Hill, of Arkansas, are the two to beat, but Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., could also be in the running, Epley said.
Seniority, fundraising and regional balance — plus relationships with other members, leadership and the House Steering Committee, which has the final say — are among the qualities the Republican conference considers when picking panel leadership, Epley said in an interview.
“One other factor is sort of all-around athlete kind of thing. This is going to vary from member to member. What is their sort of athletic superpower,” Epley said. “Are they particularly strong communicators? Particularly strong policy people? Are they really, really strong fundraisers, party-builders? Those kinds of things.”
The early consensus on and off the Hill is that Luetkemeyer, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Illicit Finance, and International Financial Institutions, and Hill, vice chair of the full committee and chairman of the the Subcommittee on Digital Assets, Financial Technology and Inclusion, have an edge but are far from the only members who could be interested in the job.
“I would suspect most people would define Mr. Luetkemeyer and Mr. Hill as the obvious front-runners, but that doesn’t mean Mr. Huizenga and other people aren’t in the mix,” said Rep. Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla. As the senior committee member, Lucas said he could be interested too.
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, another senior committee member, said he also may be interested in the role.
The outcome of the 2024 elections will determine whether the Republicans are choosing a chair or ranking member.
“It’s going to be a fascinating process,” Lucas said in an interview. “You’ve got several subcommittee chairmen who have a lot of experience who are very enthusiastic about it. You’ve got one or two old senior members who might be interested.”
Luetkemeyer says he’s interested in running. Both Huizenga, who chairs the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Barr, who chairs the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Monetary Policy, said they would keep their options open but didn’t commit either way. Hill also has not said whether he would seek the job.
Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., chair of the Subcommittee on Capital Markets, whose name also came up in conversations about McHenry’s successor, has decided against running for the job, according to spokesman Arthur Bryant.
Picking the next top Republican on Financial Services will ultimately fall to the GOP Steering Committee in early 2025. Unlike Democrats, who tend to favor seniority when assigning committee leadership positions, Republicans weigh a handful of qualities.
“There’s a bunch of different factors,” said Aaron Cutler, a partner in Hogan Lovells’ Government Relations and Public Affairs practice. “Member relationships, especially relationships with Steering Committee members. Legislative performance: How have you done? How do you do in front of the press, in media? Are you somebody who is a team player? How are your relationships with leadership?”
Regional balance across committee chairmanships is also considered, as are subject matter expertise and fundraising for other members and the National Republican Congressional Committee, Cutler said.
“Fundraising numbers are scrutinized,” Cutler said. “If you don’t pay your NRCC dues, if you don’t raise money for it, if you’re not viewed as somebody who can raise money as a chairman — obviously, expectations are high to fundraise for your colleagues and NRCC — if people don’t perceive that you can do that, well, that’s a strike against you.”
Among the four subcommittee chairmen expected to run, Barr led the pack in fundraising last cycle with $4.6 million across his campaign and leadership PAC, which allows candidates to pass donations to other members. He’s raised $1.8 million so far for the upcoming 2024 race, according to Political MoneyLine.
Luetkemeyer followed Barr with $4.1 million raised last cycle but lags behind the others heading into 2024 with $1.1 million. Hill raised $3.9 million in 2022 and $1.3 million so far for next year’s race. Huizenga raised $3.6 million last cycle and $1.1 million so far for 2024, about $16,000 more than Luetkemeyer, according to Political MoneyLine.
Luetkemeyer and Hill
Cutler, like Epley, said he sees Hill and Luetkemeyer as the front-runners.
“With both Luetkemeyer and Hill, you’re getting folks that are members that are really, really experienced in the banking industry, with former banking experience prior to Congress,” Cutler said.
Before arriving to the House in 2009, Luetkemeyer was a bank examiner for the state of Missouri and later a loan officer and vice president at the Bank of St. Elizabeth, which was founded by his great-grandfather.
Hill was elected to the House in 2014, after he founded, led and sold the Little Rock-based Delta Trust & Banking Corp. During the first Bush administration, he completed stints as the deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for corporate finance and executive secretary to the president’s Economic Policy Council.
Arnold & Porter’s Epley said both Hill and Luetkemeyer are seen as strong on policy and both sit on the Steering Committee, which could give them an edge over other rivals. With the two being otherwise fairly evenly matched, Epley said he would give the edge to Luetkemeyer, citing his seniority.
That’s a shift from a few months ago, when Hill’s track record on public policy and reputation as a “strong negotiator [and] consensus builder” made him an obvious successor to McHenry, Epley said.
Hill’s close relationship with former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who was ousted from the job in October, may work against him, Epley said. Hill voted for Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., on the floor, but it was reported that he voted “present” behind closed doors in the GOP conference vote to pick the party’s speaker nominee.
“The Hill-McCarthy relationship was really meaningful and important, and that’s not there anymore,” Epley said.