Scalise, above, beat out Graves to take control of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
Scalise has also been careful not to make waves within the organization. Although some members thought it was time to let go of longtime Executive Director Paul Teller, Scalise did not, a move conservatives took as a nod to them.
“I don’t think anybody could have fired Paul Teller,” one conservative advocate said. “That would have led them to every preconceived notion that they had about Scalise.”
Scalise has also been involved in representing conservatives on the policy side. He paired with Mulvaney in offering several amendments to the fiscal cliff deal, and he was one of several conservative lawmakers who concocted the “no budget, no pay” plan at the Republican Conference retreat in Williamsburg, Va., last month.
Graves, who is weighing whether to run for Senate in Georgia, skipped the RSC retreat, and it’s unclear how involved he plans to be in the organization that spurned him.
And Scalise has yet to earn everybody’s trust and endorsement. As the House GOP presents a unified front so far in the 113th Congress, it is evident that the Louisiana Republican’s test will come when and if the party fractures, as it so often did in the 112th Congress. The tack he will take when leadership is not in line with conservatives will prove his bona fides to many in the group.
When asked what he thinks of the chairman’s first 45 or so days, Rep. Steve King of Iowa said it is too early to draw conclusions.
“So far, it looks good,” he said. “I don’t want to indict him. I’ll just say that the Republican Study Committee’s job is to be the conservative core and center. And if that is leadership, it’s great to be close to them. If not, the RSC needs to pull us to the right.”
Michael Needham of Heritage Action for America said Scalise’s test will come as Boehner decides to hold firm on his commitment to allow the sequester level of spending cuts to take effect.
“The test of Boehner will be whether or not he allows Congress to have that debate. The test of Steve is whether he holds Boehner’s feet to the fire,” he said.