Gowdy or Russell? Steering Committee Set to Pick

House Republican Conference gets its say next week

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, left, speaks with South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, who is seeking the gavel that Chaffetz will lay aside when he leaves Congress at the end of the month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republican Reps. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Steve Russell of Oklahoma will make their pitch to the Republican Steering Committee Thursday to be the next chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Steering Committee will then vote and relay its recommendation to the full House Republican Conference, which is expected to ratify the choice on Tuesday.

The panel’s current chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, is ending his fifth congressional term early on June 30. His replacement as chairman will take over when it is read on the House floor, which is likely to be before Chaffetz’s departure. A special election to replace the Utah Republican is scheduled for November. 

Gowdy is a favorite among the Oversight Committee’s Republican members, many of whom belong to the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus. The South Carolina Republican would not answer questions Wednesday about his interest in the role.

In a statement announcing that he was seeking the chairman position, Russell said he has been focused on “government reform” as an Oversight panel member and highlighted reports he’s published on “wasteful government spending.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, a former chairman of the Freedom Caucus, had initially expressed an interest in the role but later begged off, saying the group’s conflicts with leadership would hinder his chances.

Chaffetz’s departure unexpectedly opened a coveted role on the powerful panel that oversees the executive branch and the District of Columbia.

But the next Republican will face the conundrum of being tasked with investigating an administration of the same political party.

Chaffetz had been criticized by some constituents in his home district for not investigating the current administration as aggressively as he had Democrat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.

After indicating that he would leave Congress early, Chaffetz signed several letters along with the committee’s ranking Democrat Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, seeking documents from the White House.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report

Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriter

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