Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Growing Concern at RSC

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Despite a clash with GOP colleagues recently, Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan retains the support of influential conservative activists.

Instead, under Jordan, the RSC has been a consistent problem for leadership. Earlier this year, Jordan was able to tank a trade agreement in the eleventh hour despite strong support for the measure within leadership and the rank and file. In fact, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had already scheduled a floor vote on the bill under suspension because he and Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) assumed the bill would have a strong bipartisan showing.

But on the day of the vote, RSC staff compiled a laundry list of complaints against the bill, targeting in particular spending on a worker retraining program, and fired off a bulletin urging members to oppose the bill.

The pressure worked. Freshmen and other conservatives threatened to vote the bill down, and Cantor was forced to pull it from the floor.

That backdrop, and growing complaints within leadership that Jordan was using the RSC as a way to build his own power within the Conference, set the stage for last week's fight and the demand for change.

But what direction those changes will take remains unclear.

The concerns of some rank-and-file RSC members were summed up in a draft "Dear Colleague" letter written by Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.). Rooney, who circulated the letter among colleagues last week, argued that "the recent actions taken by RSC staff under your leadership, with or without your approval, represent a dangerous expansion of RSC activities that threaten not only the future of the RSC itself, but that of our hard-fought majority."

"Sadly, these activities serve only to showcase the intolerant, short-sighted perspective we believe has become pervasive within the RSC and its staff," Rooney added.

The letter also called on Jordan to halt any RSC whip efforts, to help protect RSC members "voting their conscience against attacks by RSC-affiliated groups" and to require a majority endorsement of RSC budgets, vote recommendations and other papers before official release.

Although Rooney hasn't sent the letter, "Congressman Rooney has spoken with Congressman Jordan about some of his concerns," Rooney spokesman Mike Mahaffey said Wednesday.

But even if Rooney had sent the letter, those changes aren't likely to occur anytime soon.

Although Jordan was forced to apologize for Teller's whipping, hard-right conservatives in the House did not believe he was engaged in anything outside the RSC's normal activities. A GOP aide said the organization was simply trying to live up to its stated goal of being the conscience of the GOP, and "that's what it's going to continue to do."

Jordan and Teller also have support from conservatives. Activists set up a Web page selling "Save Paul Teller" T-shirts. Russ Vought, political director for Heritage Action for America and a former RSC staffer who is an influential voice in tea party and conservative circles, also came to the defense of the RSC and Teller.

In a blog post on RedState.com titled "Message to RSC Members: Get In or Get Out," Vought defended Jordan, writing, "Jim Jordan is proving to be one of the most effective [chairmen] in the history of the RSC. ... Instead of being raked over the coals, he should be honored as a patriot."

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