Conservative supporters of Rep. John Shadegg (R.-Ariz.), the third-place finisher in the race for House majority leader, are quietly but increasingly lobbying on Shadegg’s behalf for the unofficial job of assistant majority leader.
Although no such position formally exists, Shadegg’s allies want newly elected Majority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio) to create the job. It would be largely symbolic, supporters of the idea said, but it would give Shadegg a more prominent role within the party.
"Shadegg did everything right by resigning from the Policy Committee and making a good, honest policy-based run for majority leader," a conservative House Republican staffer told HUMAN EVENTS. "Now he’s just kind of left as this run-of-the-mill member. And that doesn’t seem right."
Even though the idea has gained some traction among conservatives, a House GOP leadership aide told HUMAN EVENTS he’s heard of no such talk about creating the assistant majority leader position.
"Shadegg came out this with a great degree of admiration and respect by the folks that paid close attention to the campaign," the leadership aide said. "He has considerable talents, and he did a great job as Policy Committee chairman and people recognize that. He’s going to continue to play an important role as we continue to move forward on the agenda, especially with items like earmark reform, greater transparency and ethics reform.
"But as far as specific talks or discussions about some sort of title or role like that, I don’t know of any," the aide told HUMAN EVENTS.
When pressed about what role Shadegg might play, the aide said: "He’s not going away. He’ll have a seat at the table for a lot of the issues we’re going to be dealing with."
Without Shadegg’s entrance into the majority leader’s race, Boehner would have likely fallen short in his quest for the No. 2 job in the House. It was Shadegg’s 40 votes on the first ballot that denied Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R.-Mo.) the 117 votes he needed to win. A combination of Shadegg supporters and Blunt defectors handed Boehner victory on the second ballot.
The idea of making Shadegg assistant majority leader was first broached by Townhall.com National Political Writer Tim Chapman in a column Thursday. "By elevating Shadegg," Chapman wrote, "leadership would signal to a growing and energetic portion of the caucus that the reform message — and the ideas and proposals contained therein — will not only be listened to, but acted upon."
Chapman’s column quickly made its way to conservative bloggers and then to Capitol Hill staffers. The popular RedState.com prominently displayed the idea on its homepage. Likewise, the Heritage Foundation’s Mark Tapscott wrote on his blog: "Bring Shadegg in From the Cold."
Not all conservatives agree the idea is all that great. Writing on RedState.com, blogger Blanton said: "Make no mistake about it — I engaged on behalf of Shadegg with zeal. But part of me thinks this is a bit like what the left did with Howard Dean — he lost, but they demanded a role for him. While that is an extreme example, a number of us think that Shadegg can be more influential on the outside of leadership."
However, the conservative House Republican staffer with knowledge of the plan countered: "A title isn’t meaningless. It would send a signal to conservative activists nationwide that says, ‘We’re all working together here.’"
He added: "The base doesn’t know who meets with whom and at what time. But all the sudden if the news goes out that John Shadegg is given an unofficial assistant majority leader and a promise that he’ll work hand-in-hand with Boehner, that’s a huge signal to the base. Huge. That’s why you’re starting to get some rumblings."
Another complication might be the potential conflict between an Assistant Majority Leader Shadegg and Majority Whip Blunt, who holds the No. 3 job in the House. But it, too, has benefits.
"For Boehner, it strengthens his reform credentials," the conservative House Republican staffer told HUMAN EVENTS. "It frankly just makes for a more solid team. Because let’s face it, Can Boehner really trust Blunt to work with him? I don’t know. Maybe."
A spokesman for Shadegg didn’t respond to an inquiry from HUMAN EVENTS about the idea. However, the conservative GOP aide said he’s fairly confident Shadegg wouldn’t shy away from a larger role.
"He’s not one to be like, ‘Hey, I made a great run and now I’ll just be a run-of-the-mill member.’ He’s probably thinking it would be great to get — even if unofficial — some sort of higher recognition, something that makes him stand out from Joe Member," the staffer told HUMAN EVENTS. "He had that with the Policy Committee, but he did the right thing by stepping down, and now he’s left with nothing even though he’s a great conservative voice in the conference."