Today’s Courier Herald Column:
This week, leaders in the US Congress as well as the Georgia Legislature will begin the process of deciding who will lead them as they try to lead us through the next two years. The battles are not insignificant though most will likely never know these elections happen. The results will determine the direction and tone of the various bodies, and may have an impact on the 2014 elections.
In the U.S. Congress, Republicans will meet this week to decide leadership posts. Georgia’s Tom Price is attempting to become Chairman of the House Republican caucus. It is thus far a bit of a test to the control John Boehner will have over the only part of our nation’s government under Republican control.
Price is competing with Rep Cathy McMorris Rogers of Washington State. She, as the House Conference Vice-Chairperson, is the House’s highest ranking female Representative. The race has split Republicans among along lines that are being characterized as a race between current leadership/establishment Republicans versus those that are considered more of the rebellious conservative lines.
McMorris Rogers is backed by Speaker Boehner and most of his leadership team. As such, a Price victory is likely to be viewed as a signal that Boehner may have future issues keeping Republicans united as he begins the process of negotiating with Senators and the White House over the multiple issues awaiting Congress. Attempting to diffuse such a standoff, Boehner offered Price a compromise position of his own creation in exchange for Price’s loyalty to the Republican leadership slate. Price declined the offer.
Price has lined up public support both within and outside of Congress. Paul Ryan has announced his endorsement of Price, as have conservative stalwarts Mike Pence and Jeb Hensarling. Freedomworks and Conservative pundit Michele Malkin are also pushing for Price.
Price’s positioning as the true conservative willing to tilt Republican establishment windmills is not going unnoticed back home in Georgia. Price has floated a few trial balloons within D.C. circles about a possible challenge to Senator Saxby Chambliss for 2014. Should Price win the post, it is assumed that his leadership responsibilities within the House will keep him occupied in his present chamber. Should he lose, it remains an open question as to whether he will continue to look to the other side of the capitol as his potential political future.
Meanwhile, closer to home, Senate Republicans will meet at Little Ocmulgee State Park Thursday and Friday for a retreat, a “time of healing”, adoption of caucus rules and proposed Senate rules, and leadership elections. The Senate Rules agreed to will determine how much power Lt. Governor Casey Cagle will be allowed to exert over the chamber, likely returning at least some if not all of the power he had until 2011.
Headline contests for leadership positions within the Senate include Bill Cowsert versus David Shafer for President Pro Tem, replacing Tommie Williams who decided earlier not to seek another term in Senate leadership. Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers is said to be challenged by Ronnie Chance, currently one of Governor Deal’s floor leaders.
Unlike earlier discussions, all seem to be on the same talking points that no offices are being contested as “slates”, instead insisting that each office is being contested on its own. Regardless, it is widely viewed that certain candidates will be more favorable to returning Cagle to a prominent role as part of the Senate Leadership team.
Implications from the Senate votes include who is allowed to appoint committee chairmen. Hanging in the balance is the fate of Rules Chairman Don Balfour, currently under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation after being fined by the Senate for filing improper expense reimbursement reports.
Republicans and Democrats in Georgia’s House held their leadership elections on Monday. Republicans will maintain the same leadership slate under the guidance of Speaker David Ralston. Democrats replaced Brian Thomas with Virgil Fludd for the position of Caucus Chairman.