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Foxx Hunts for GOP, Sometimes Misfires

Since joining the House Rules Committee last fall, Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.) has become a secret weapon for the Republican Party in complex legislative warfare, but she has also sometimes performed like a loose cannon.

Her higher public profile has been a blessing and a curse for House Republican leadership. They have praised Foxx for her unrelenting energy and willingness to dig into legislative details, but they have winced quietly at her mistakes.

Foxx first took center stage during the House Republican protests last August, when GOPers took over the floor to protest the Democratic decision to adjourn for the summer without a comprehensive energy bill. She attended the protest for a dozen days, more than any other member of the Republican Conference.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) appointed Foxx to the Rules Committee in January after Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) left the panel to serve as the ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee.

“Congresswoman Foxx’s reputation as a hard-working and committed Member, and a tenacious debater — particularly during last summer’s battle for an ‘all of the above’ energy policy — made her a great choice for the Rules Committee,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

“I enjoy being prepared, so that if I’m asked to speak on a bill, I will spend time reading the bill, reading the material, understanding it,” Foxx said. “I want to be prepared for whatever I’m involved in.”

She has earned her stripes as a tireless debater in the Rules Committee over the past few months and has faced down the toughest and most combative Democrats — much to the delight of the heavily outnumbered Republicans on the panel.

Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) once said he “felt sorry” for the other Members on the Rules Committee who had to work with her.

“She will take on anybody,” Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) said. “If she believes she is doing the right thing, she’s going to do it.”

In January, Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) was testifying on the stimulus bill but left the committee room and did not return after Foxx drew a comparison between his handling of the bill and his habit of fiddling with a pencil.

Foxx said she was unfazed by the rancor of the committee and pointed out she successfully got language inserted into a housing bill after its sponsor, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), agreed that the provision was needed.

“He didn’t seem to mind the questions I asked,” Foxx said in an interview with Roll Call.

She has also been an effective attack dog on the House floor. In March, Foxx caused freshman Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) to become so flustered after an exchange about Kilroy’s vote on the American International Group Inc. bailout that Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) soon held a parliamentary boot camp for Democratic freshmen to avoid future incidents.

But Foxx’s straight-talk style has its downside.

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