Republicans jockey for top GOP spot on House Foreign Affairs Committee
GOP Reps. Mike McCaul (Texas), Joe Wilson (S.C.) and Ted Yoho (Fla.) are all vying to replace retiring Rep. Ed Royce (Calif.) as the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Each says they have subject-matter expertise and the ability to work across the aisle, qualities they argue will make them prime candidates to serve as ranking member as House Republicans prepare for life in the minority.
The jockeying comes amid shakeups on various House committees, where gavels will be passed from Republicans to Democrats in early January. GOP lawmakers also have to deal with term limits for top committee posts and retirements for Republicans like Royce.
McCaul argues that serving as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee has helped prepare him for the role, noting many of the issues the committees handle are intertwined.
“I've taken a committee with very limited jurisdiction, and that is Homeland, and turned it into one of the top three committees in terms of the passage of legislation, which I think is pretty significant,” he told The Hill in an interview.
The Texas Republican said he can help “elevate the stature of the Foreign Affairs Committee.”
McCaul — who previously worked as a federal prosecutor specializing in counterterrorism — said his experience with national security issues, both prior to his time in Congress and as a lawmaker, would be beneficial to the committee.
“I think you're seeing a shift to nation-state actors, foreign adversaries like Russia, China, North Korea, Iran — they’re really, I think, becoming front and center right now,” he said. “The focus on national security and the priorities, I think, are really shifting now to these other countries, not to mention what's going on in Syria, you know, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. A lot of hotspots out there right now, and I think it's important that to have subject matter expertise in what we’re doing.”
With conservative lawmakers calling for a rule change that would bar GOP members from obtaining back-to-back chairmanships or status as ranking member, McCaul faces a potential hurdle.
But he said the proposed change wouldn’t be beneficial for the Republican conference, and that previous experience is a sign of a lawmaker’s ability to tackle the big issues.
“If anything, that that's a positive for me, that I've been tested, and I can hit the ground running on Day One,” McCaul said. “It demonstrates what I'm capable of doing.”
Wilson, the most senior of the three GOP lawmakers competing for the ranking member position, highlighted his experience working to strengthen U.S.-Israeli relations, noting that he led the congressional delegation to the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem. The South Carolina Republican, who serves as co-chair of the India Caucus, also pointed to his work promoting the civilian nuclear agreement with India as an example of his ability to get results.
Wilson said his positive working relationship with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who will likely chair the committee next year, would be an asset, saying he considers “the Foreign Affairs Committee one that is substantially nonpartisan.”
“We're the only two members of Congress who have actually been on a delegation to Pyongyang, North Korea, and so you bond when you've been out of Pyongyang,” he said.
Wilson’s work in trying to save the House majority this past election cycle could help him with the Steering Committee, which decides committee assignments. Wilson helped more than 100 members and fellow GOP candidates with their races, giving and raising $1.8 million during the midterm cycle. He also raised more than $100,000 for seven vulnerable members of the Foreign Affairs Committee at one event, according to numbers provided by his team.
Yoho, who serves as the chairman of the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee, also highlighted his positive relationship with top Democrats on the committee, pointing to the recently passed BUILD Act as an example of his work on substantive legislation that was widely supported by both parties.
“I tend to have a light sense of humor as we get serious stuff done, and, you know, I look forward to doing that,” he said. “If you have a goal that's put out there that people can look at and say, ‘You know what, I think that's what we should do,’ it's a lot easier to work across the aisle.”
Since coming to Congress, Yoho — a member of the House Freedom Caucus — said his opinions on issues like foreign aid have shifted.
“My whole goal when I came to Congress was to get rid of foreign aid. But I've transitioned because I realize you're not going to get rid of foreign aid, but you can reform it,” he said. “My goal is to move from aid to trade, and we can do that by developing economies and investing in the right infrastructure.”
The Florida Republican acknowledged he faces challenges in his bid for ranking member since he has bucked GOP leadership on a number of issues.
"Of course, I know my shortfalls, you know, coming in my first year of voting against John Boehner," he told The Hill, referring to the former House Speaker from Ohio. "So, I've got that brand on me."
But Yoho said he’s hopeful his experience and legislative accomplishments will ultimately help him secure the ranking member role.