We Need A Veteran For Majority Whip

 Op-Ed by Jerry Hendrix via RealClear Wire,

We Need A Veteran For Majority Whip

As the Republican party considers its return to power on Capitol Hill with a very narrow majority in the House of Representatives, it should consider leaders who have the proper self-discipline, political experience and operational background to guide the party during this time of significant political unrest at home and great power competition abroad. Simply put, with the issues of economic recession, and the erosion law and order at home, and the policy of peace through strength for challenges abroad, as well as when factoring into account the fact that the newer, younger membership of the House on both sides of the aisle includes so many veterans of the recent two decades long Global War On Terror, the Republican House leadership team would be well served to include a veteran amongst its ranks to provide the unique perspective associated with that experience and background.

With the recovery of a narrow majority in the U.S. House of Representatives there will be significant changes in the conservative leadership team in the House. Kevin McCarthy of California, who served as Majority Whip during John Boehner’s term as speaker and then majority leader during Paul Ryan’s tenure, will presumably assume the speaker’s gavel after leading the minority party through the past six years of Democratic Party rule, although there are signs of unrest in the ranks due to disappointments at the polls this past week.

Steve Scalise of Louisiana has served as McCarthy’s whip and loyal deputy over the past six years, including during the painful period following his near assassination from a gunshot wound from a Bernie Sanders supporter in 2017. Scalise will almost certainly be elevated to the role of majority leader as McCarthy mounts the rostrum at the center of the well of the House. This will leave the majority whip’s position open at the beginning of a Congress where every Republican vote will be needed. This will require a strong, disciplined hand at the whip.

It must also be noted, and without prejudice, that neither McCarthy nor Scalise have served in the military. Additionally, neither of them has served on the House Armed Services, Intelligence, Appropriations, Foreign Affairs or Veterans Affairs committees that deal with the issues of national security or their adjacencies. McCarthy’s focus has been largely on the Financial Services Committee while Scalise’s area of expertise has been found within the Energy and Commerce Committee. These are important roles, but they also highlight the fact that both men would be well served to have a colleague in the majority whip’s office who is intimately familiar with the nation’s national security challenges.

The competition for the whip position has already commenced and the candidates overall are strong, well-qualified, and respected amongst the conference.

Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, who served as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee through the last election cycle, lacks military or broader national security experience. He worked as a lawyer prior to entering the state legislature and entered the House in 2019. In that capacity he has served, like McCarthy, on the Financial Services Committee. Emmer is a solid fiscal conservative who has consistently sought to rein in government spending. Unfortunately, this pursuit caused him to vote against several critical national security bills that sought to expand defense spending as well as protect the nation’s cybersecurity workforce. These votes as well as his rather unique opposition to President Trump’s reimposition of an economic embargo on Cuba suggests that his approach to national security remains more ideological than pragmatic, and diverges from previous eras of great power competition. Overall, he approaches national security with a lawyer’s legalistic eye rather than a veteran’s instinct for the terrain.

Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia currently serves as chief deputy whip for the Republican conference and would normally be seen as the natural successor to Scalise. Ferguson, a dentist, entered the House after a hard-fought election and has served on the powerful Ways and Means Committee since. While Ferguson has been a strong supporter of both military modernization and expansion, aside from a “no” vote on the 2021 NDAA, he also lacks service on one of the relevant national security associated committees in the House and the real-world experience that comes with previous active duty in the military. His elevation to the whip position would leave the House without anyone with the fingerspitzengefühl feel for the national security challenges facing the nation.

This leaves Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana as the last remaining contestant for the whip position.

For transparency’s sake, I should say that Banks represents the district where I grew up, although I have not lived there in nearly forty years, but my people know his people, and that matters. Additionally, we are both Navy veterans, and when we see each other, we share more than a few sea stories.

Banks served in the Indiana state legislature and in the naval reserve, deploying as a logistician to Afghanistan, prior to entering the House in 2017. Since then, he has been elevated to the chair of the Republican Study Committee, the internal think-tank for Minority Leader McCarthy and a font of new ideas. Banks serves on the Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs committees, as well as the Education and Labor Committee, where he has taken a direct and focused interest in strengthening our national security and taking care of our veterans’ community.

Banks has taken a deep interest in the legislative process. It is one thing to vote for a larger Navy, but it is another to author a resolution to build a 426-ship fleet with specific numbers of types of ships assigned to specific strategic objectives. In addition, Banks has either authored or co-sponsored legislation expressly focused on the strategic threat posed by China.

It must be admitted that Banks, in his capacity as the chair of the Republican Study Committee has earned a reputation as a partisan, but the whip position is also a partisan position. However, he has in the past demonstrated a willingness to reach across the aisle, especially when working with fellow former military members to craft real alternative approaches to our nation’s future defense. He and his staff also have built a reputation for rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard work of crafting real legislation. He is a man of disciplined thought and action, as many veterans are.

The Republican Party is assuredly positioned to return to leadership in the House next year, but it will have only a narrow majority and it will be confronted with many key issues challenging the nation. Jim Banks, with his domestic experience on the Education and Labor Committee, as well as his service on the Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs committees, would substantively add to the Republican House leadership’s policy breadth and depth.

Banks has proven that he can think, act, speak, and lead, and would bring the pragmatic solutions of the Midwest farm country he represents to the House leadership team. Additionally, his addition to the House leadership would be a powerful nod of acknowledgment to the 70-plus veterans who serve in the lower chamber from both parties, a vast majority of whom are young and have served in front line positions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House Republicans should not pass on the opportunity to place a veteran in leadership.

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