Republican Leaders Must Put Principles Before Parochial Politics

Reps. Thaddeus McCotter and Dave Camp want to be among the next generation of House GOP leaders. McCotter is running for reelection as chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and Camp is angling to be ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Both lawmakers hail from Michigan, and for that reason, they support a bailout of the Big Three automakers. Congressmen should take the interests of their constituents into consideration — and no doubt that’s precisely what McCotter and Camp feel that they are doing. But they need to remember that if a precedent is set for bailing out ailing private industries, this will hurt their constituents immensely in the long run.

Party leaders should never let parochial politics trump principle. That’s what led to the GOP’s downfall in the first place. If the auto bailout is a test of principles, members of the House GOP need to give deep thought to the men they put in control of these two important posts. It helps that there are credible alternatives; both races feature conservatives who oppose the auto bailout.

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Tex.), currently vice chairman of the Policy Committee, has been working overtime to unseat McCotter. Burgess’ approach to the job is both innovative and inspiring. He’s crafted an eight-point Contract with the GOP Conference and wants Republicans to stop being so reactive and engage on issues like health care.

McCotter, who like Burgess voted against the $700 billion bailout, last month joined with his liberal Michigan colleagues to support government intervention in the auto industry. “In this current economic environment it is imperative that the government ensures that liquidity is restored so that the U.S. auto industry is able to function until normalcy is restored to credit markets,” McCotter wrote to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke with other members of the state’s congressional delegation.

I like McCotter personally and appreciate his candid approach to politics, but if the auto bailout is the GOP’s first chance at redemption, what message does it send if the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee supports government intervention?

The other race, which won’t be decided until early December, pits Camp against Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) for the top GOP spot on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. This job requires someone who can go toe-to-toe with Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.). One account of Camp’s involvement in the Detroit bailout describes him as “making the case for the automakers with the White House.” We don’t need a dealmaker. We need a fighter.

If McCotter and Camp want to be GOP leaders, they should renounce the auto bailout. Otherwise, Republicans should think long and hard about who they anoint as leaders of the party.