Looks like the tea party is 0 for 3 in its bid to influence key House Republican leadership elections this week, as the Republican Study Committee (RSC) today rejected a bid by Rep. Louie "terror babies" Gohmert to win the committee's chairmanship. The Tea Party Patriots, a large national tea party umbrella group, has been lobbying its members to weigh in this week on intraparty races that would decide who will run powerful House committees in the next Congress. They planned to use their organizing heft to help ensure that the tea party movement remains relevant to sitting members of Congress. Influencing the leadership races was one way of keeping tabs on the people they helped elect. Unfortunately for tea partiers, their influence isn't turning out to be much of a match for that of incoming House Speaker John Boehner and other established House leadership members.
Today, the RSC voted to install Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) as its new chairman, rebuffing a tea party-supported bid by Gohmert to assume the helm of the conservative committee. Gohmert is a tea party favorite and has a strong following among rank-and-file conservatives, but even some of them had misgivings about Gohmert taking over the RSC. Erick Erickson had urged conservatives last week to "Just say no" to Gohmert's bid, writing on RedState:
I like Louie Gohmert, but between he and Jim Jordan, I trust Jim Jordan to be a fully competent conservative trench fighter who will never go off the reservation about terror babies in embarrassing fashion—let alone be asked about it.
After today's vote, Erickson tweeted, "Praise God. Jim Jordan gets RSC Chairman."
The RSC vote was just the latest tea party defeat on the Hill. On Tuesday, a GOP House steering committee headed by Boehner selected Michigan Rep. Fred Upton to chair the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Upton was the tea partiers' least favorite candidate for the job, primarily because his votes to expand state health care for children and support for banning incandescent light bulbs. The Republicans also rebuffed the tea partiers for the chair of the Appropriations Committee, passing over Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a tea party favorite, for Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), a man dubbed by Democrats as the "king of pork" thanks to his success at winning earmarks that direct millions of dollars to his home state. Given how much tea partiers hate earmarks, his selection was a major defeat for the grassroots movement.
On the legislative front, too, the tea partiers aren't faring especially well. They recently failed to derail a food safety bill that was passed by wide margins in the Senate on the same day that the Senate voted against a ban earmark moratorium. They might be able to claim success when the DREAM Act goes down in flames this week, as its widely expected to, but that won't just be the work of the tea party. The anti-immigration forces lined up against the legislation stretch far beyond the tea party activists.
Still to come is the Republican National Committee chairman's race, which the tea partiers have also been trying to influence. But it seems likely that RNC members won't give the grassroots activists any more heft in their decision-making than they will evangelical Christians or other GOP voting blocs. And in that race, RNC members will have to choose between candidates endorsed by tea partiers, or one backed by former Vice President Dick Cheney. Given the tea party's recent record, my money is on Cheney.