House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy huddled Wednesday morning for the first time with a new internal GOP task force aimed at promoting Republicans’ energy message.
According to a GOP aide, the House Energy Action Team is made up of 26 members, including Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.) and Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (Wash.) as well as numerous members from both committees. The group will act as leadership’s primary vehicle for pushing its energy agenda and demonstrating that, “House Republicans are on the side of the small businesses and families who are increasingly harmed by record high energy prices,” according to a description of the group provided to Roll Call.
According to aides familiar with McCarthy’s thinking, members will be tasked with providing a public face for the GOP’s energy agenda through a variety of means, including media appearances, social media and other alternative communication methods, penning op-eds and conducting field hearings and roundtables, among others.
Republicans have sought to make energy issues a more central part of their message activities and legislative agenda. But with gas prices soaring Congress has still been slow to react to the problem, and McCarthy and others said they hope to counter the public’s perception that Congress is not focused on it.
The Californian on Wednesday said he hopes the task force will “further highlight Republican energy proposals to expand domestic energy production. These proposals will help create American jobs, grow our economy, and enhance our security through greater energy independence.”
Both Upton and Hastings praised McCarthy’s decision in a statement. “As we work to cut the red tape that is blocking energy production and finally harness our available resources with an all-of-the–above energy strategy, I’m pleased to have this team of talented members volunteer to take our message of job creation and energy security to the American people,” Upton said.
The group also appears to be part of McCarthy’s broader effort to remake the basic function of the whip job. For months, McCarthy has been working to transform his position from its traditional role in acting as a hammer to bring wayward Members into line into a more outreach-based position.
For instance, he headed up a series of listening sessions on the budget in the early months of the 112th Congress that helped build broad support for Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) spending blue print, and he has worked with freshmen and conservatives to ensure leadership has buy-in on spending and debt issues.
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.