Cole Backed for Approps

Boehner to Uphold Pledge to Ousted NRCC Chairman

Posted December 5, 2008 at 6:19pm

Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) did not receive Minority Leader John Boehner’s (Ohio) endorsement to continue as the head of the House Republican campaign operation, but Cole will have the GOP leader’s backing for a plum spot on the Appropriations Committee, according to Boehner’s office.

Cole secured Boehner’s endorsement in February for a future assignment to the Appropriations panel after the Oklahoman dropped his bid for a seat that had come open at the time.

Boehner and Cole’s relationship became increasingly strained over the past year, culminating in Boehner’s decision last month to back Rep. Pete Sessions’ (Texas) successful effort to wrest the chairmanship of the National Republican Congressional Committee away from Cole.

Boehner pressured Cole to back out of contention for the earlier Appropriations opening because the pool of contenders included two Members who faced tight re-election campaigns this year. At the time, Cole argued that he could use the position on the spending committee to boost the NRCC’s war chest.

The GOP Steering Committee eventually awarded the post to Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.) on the basis of seniority.

“The Minority Leader asked me to step aside while I focus on my duties as a member of Republican leadership,” Cole said in a release on Feb. 14. “I believe this was the best decision at the appropriate time for the entire Conference.”

In a statement directly below Cole’s on the same release, Boehner praised Cole’s “selflessness” in making the decision to focus all of his efforts on the committee.

“I’m proud and honored to serve with him, and I’ve pledged to support him for an appropriations seat next January, when I expect we will mark the first month of a new Republican majority in the House,” Boehner said in the same statement.

Cole spokeswoman Elizabeth Eddy said the lawmakers spoke recently but declined to disclose the details of the discussion.

Fourteen Republicans lost their re- election bids in November. While few blame Cole directly, Members and staff seriously questioned his stewardship of the committee and fundraising ability over his two-year term.

Boehner’s endorsement gives Cole an edge with the Steering Committee, which makes committee assignments.

As the Republican leader, Boehner has five votes on the panel. Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has two votes, while the 26 other Members — a combination of committee ranking members and regional representatives — have one vote each.

As the former NRCC chairman, Cole is also a voting member of the Steering Committee.

It was unclear at press time exactly how the ratios on House committees will change in the 111th Congress, but regardless of the official total, posts on so-called A committees will be at a premium and candidates for the most coveted assignments will face tough scrutiny.

The GOP Steering Committee will meet Tuesday and Wednesday to interview candidates for ranking member positions but will not vote on committee issues until January, according to Republican sources.

“We won’t have any ranking members until January,” a House leadership aide said.

All ranking members from the 110th Congress must present to the committee regardless of whether they face a challenge for the post — and some may find themselves fighting to keep their spot.

Rumors have swirled for weeks about the possibility of replacing Rep. Spencer Bachus (Ala.) as the top Republican on the Financial Services Committee, but a public challenge has not emerged and Bachus has not expressed an interest in stepping down from the panel.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) also remains unchallenged for the top spot on the Natural Resources Committee, but conservatives have been privately urging Boehner to replace him amid questions over the senior lawmaker’s ethics.

Young’s chief of staff, Michael Anderson, said, “Mr. Young has talked to the leader and has made it known to the leader that he wants the ranking position.”

Anderson stressed that Young wanted to continue to serve in the top slot because it was “important to Alaska,” especially given the state’s resource-based economy.

“I don’t think anybody would assume that it’s a done deal. It’s not done until a) the Steering Committee makes those recommendations and b) the Conference adopts those recommendations.”

Shira Toeplitz contributed to this report.