Four Races to Watch in House GOP Ranks

UPDATE: The results are in!

The House Republican Steering Committee gathers today on Capitol Hill to interview a slate of candidates for ranking member on several important committees. These members will shape the future of the party and the direction it’s headed in the 111th Congress. Although few people outside the beltway will be watching, there are four important races to follow:

1) Scandal-plagued Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) is hoping to keep his spot as ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee. Rewarding bad behavior would foil the GOP’s attempt to bury old scandals. A source on Capitol Hill told me yesterday that Republican Leader John Boehner informed Young that he would not support his candidacy. Without Boehner’s backing, it’s unlikely the Steering Committee would support Young either.

2) The contest to see who will sit opposite corrupt Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) remains too close to call. Reform-minded Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) is facing Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) to be ranking member. Camp was supposed to be a shoo-in for the job, but his support for a Big Three bailout and his ties to K Street have hurt his chances. Herger, meanwhile, has promised to fight for conservative principles on free trade agreements, taxes and entitlements. Herger told the FlashReport’s Jon Fleischman that he’s ready for the job to take on Rangel.

3) Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) didn’t inspire much confidence during the debate over the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. In fact, Bachus was ousted as the lead negotiator by then-Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) amid concerns from the GOP. Now Bachus is facing a possible a “no confidence” vote from the Steering Committee. Politico reported yesterday that Reps. David Dreier (Calif.) and Steven LaTourette (Ohio) are possible successors should Bachus fail to secure the committee’s support.

4) Conservatives should cheer Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) likely appointment as ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. With the retirement of moderate Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), Issa has secured the backing of fellow committee members Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and John Mica (R-Fla.). The committee, charged with investigating any federal program and any matter with federal policy implications, will be an important battleground for oversight of the Obama administration.

Conservatives should also keep close watch of the Steering Committee’s selections for the Appropriations Committee, likely to take place in the coming weeks. Pork-busting champion Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who lost a bid earlier this year to Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), is again vying to serve on the committee. Flake has promised to use the committee for its intended purpose: “[T]hat’s to scrutinize spending rather than be a vehicle for earmarks.” You can sign a petition supporting his appointment at MakeItFlake.com.