As GOP leaders thin the ranks of members of the class of 2010 at the upper echelons of the conference, some in the historic class are fighting to retain their positions of influence.
Leaders have already reduced the class’s dedicated ranks at the leadership table from two to one, and now Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, wants to cut their reserved seats on the Republican Steering Committee from three to one, as well.
Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., who will be a class representative to the steering committee, said he is fighting to keep at least two spots to represent the returning members of the class.
“We’re telling leadership that we need to have that second position in order to represent the over-70 members that we have fairly and equitably for committee assignments,” Heck said Wednesday.
At least 14 members of the Republican freshman class will not be returning to Congress next year after a tough election cycle for the GOP, but the group still represents about one-third of the conference. The incoming freshman class of 35 members will have one seat on the steering committee, so the argument in favor of Heck’s position is that simply based on math, a class with twice as many members should have twice as many seats.
Heck said the group is trying to figure out a path forward to convince leadership before Thursday’s 2 p.m. GOP organizational meeting that it is worthy of an extra spot.
“We’re looking for a way to maximize the leverage we hold as a freshman class to help our fellow freshman classmates,” he said, though he would not be more specific.
Members of the class of 2010 had two spots in general leadership in the 112th Congress as well, but the number will be reduced to one next year and the position does not come with a steering committee seat.
On Wednesday, the class elected Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina to be that representative. Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota occupied the other role, but she has already announced she would not be challenging Scott.
Noem said they were not told until last week that the leadership table would be thinned. She said the class wasn’t offered two seats in the first place, but convinced the speaker during 2010’s freshman orientation that they deserved it because of the size of their class. That gives her hope that leadership will hear them out again.
“The concerns that we’ve had, we definitely made to them. Ultimately it’s a decision of the leadership team,” she said. “We’ve found in the past that if we make our case to the speaker he’ll listen and hopefully he will this time, too.”
The speaker’s office declined to comment.
The steering committee is an influential group of conference leaders, committee chairmen and regional representatives who dole out committee assignments and vote on committee chairmanships. Their dealings are closely guarded and the membership is not publicized. Generally, it is packed with allies of the speaker, but due to the enormous 2010 freshman class, leadership decided to give the group an unprecedented three seats.
GOP Reps. Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Todd Rokita of Indiana were the other two steering committee representatives from the class in the 112th Congress. They declined to comment.
Still, the class will have one additional member on the steering committee. Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma was unanimously elected to chair the Republican Policy Committee on Wednesday, meaning he will be in leadership and on the steering committee.
Other freshmen, however, were rebuffed in their bids for leadership. Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama lost to sophomore Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas for the conference vice chairmanship. Rep. Jeff Denham of California lost to Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina in the race to become conference secretary. Both positions come with a steering committee seat.
Lankford said he has heard the call from some members of his class to retain two spots on the steering committee, but he will not push for the cause. He said, however, that as the only other member of his class on the committee, he does feel some responsibility toward his colleagues.
“I will definitely know those members better than most people will on the steering committee and I’ll have the opportunity to represent them,” he said. “I’ll be glad to be able to voice that. I have a responsibility to the people I know.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.