Shadegg Shakes Up Status Quo at Republican Study Committee Retreat

Baltimore, Md. — Declaring that House Republicans "haven’t had an idea person in their leadership for a long time" and proclaiming that his election would mean "a clean break is a clean break," Rep. John Shadegg (R.-Ariz.) took his bid to succeed Texas Rep. Tom DeLay as House majority leader to the Republican Study Committee retreat at the Harbor Court Hotel in Baltimore today.

With more than 60 Members of the conservative RSC gathering at the two-day retreat organized by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, Shadegg — an alumni of the “Gingrich Class” of Republicans that took a majority in the House in 1994 and chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee — shopped for votes in the leadership race February 2nd. In sessions with reporters and colleagues, the 56-year-old Arizonan drove home his theme that he represented a fresh face for the party as opposed to opponents Roy Blunt (Mo.) and John Boehner (Oh.), both of whom have been in the House GOP leadership and have close ties to high-powered lobbyists on Washington’s famed "K Street."

Shadegg hit that hard and called for shedding a public spotlight on the earmarks (special spending projects for individual districts that Members surreptitiously slip into bills) — although not demanding outright abolition of the controversial spending projects. He also called for denying pensions to Members of Congress who plead guilty to or are convicted of a felony. Throughout his talks and meetings in Baltimore, Shadegg stressed that his candidacy was about "reform" and "image," that it was not an "anti-Roy [blunt] campaign."

With three days to go before the balloting, Blunt — party whip and acting majority leader since DeLay stepped down last year to face criminal charges in Texas — claims 90 votes committed to him by name and more than enough privately committed to insure a majority of the 231 House Republicans needed to win on February 2nd. Backers of Boehner and Shadegg, however, were quick to dismiss the Missourian’s claim of majority support and insist the race will go to an unpredictable second ballot (Under House Republican rules, if no one wins an office on a ballot, the lowest vote-getter on the preceding ballot is dropped on the subsequent ballot and Members vote until one wins an outright majority).

It’s clearly going to a second ballot," Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wisconsin) told me, adding "I know this because of conversations I have had [with colleagues]." Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R.-TX), another Shadegg soldier, echoed this view, saying "many of the commitments made to the other candidates were made when it was a two-person race. It’s a three person race now, and you will find the mood of Congress now restless. These are brushfire conditions like what we have back in Texas and one spark could send a fire across 5000 acres."