Two Eye Portman’s Position

Posted April 15, 2005 at 6:19pm

Though Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) is in no apparent hurry to fill the soon-to-be-vacated leadership post of Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a pair of GOP lawmakers have quietly expressed interest in taking the position.

Reps. Todd Tiahrt (Kan.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.) have both made it known to some of their colleagues that they would like to be considered for the job of chairman of the House Republican leadership, an appointed post that Portman has held since 2001.

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to consider the nomination of Portman to be the U.S. trade representative. In the meantime, Hastert has yet to announce who will replace Portman in leadership or even whether he plans to fill the post at all.

“Speaker Hastert is thinking about this matter very seriously,” said Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean.

Because the leadership chairman is chosen by Hastert alone, Republican Members and aides suggested it is not a post for which candidates should actively campaign.

While neither Tiahrt nor Wicker is said to have as close a relationship to Hastert as Portman does, they do have some experience and leadership ties. And while leadership sources said that neither man has pestered the Speaker about the job, they are both interested.

“Anytime you can get in leadership, that’s a good thing,” Tiahrt said, adding that he was currently focused on his legislative work rather than an active leadership campaign.

Wicker’s chief of staff, John Keast, said, “I’m sure that Congressman Wicker would be happy to help in this capacity if that’s how the Speaker wanted him to contribute.”

Tiahrt is currently a Deputy Majority Whip. At the start of the 108th Congress, he was in the running to be Chief Deputy Majority Whip before the post was given to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

Wicker is also a longtime member of the whip organization, and he worked closely with Hastert when the Illinois lawmaker held the Chief Deputy Majority Whip position.