Jim Banks hits the road to collect votes for majority whip bid
CENTRAL CITY, Iowa — Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) brought his campaign for House majority whip to Iowa, promoting House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as a “fantastic” future speaker who needs capable lieutenants by his side in a new Republican majority.
Banks was here, near Cedar Rapids, stumping for freshman Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA), part of a cross-country tour to support GOP efforts to win the House majority in the midterm elections and build support for his majority whip bid. If Republicans prevail, McCarthy is on track to become speaker, and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) is likely the next majority leader. That leaves open the post of chief floor-vote counter — and Banks wants it.
“The conference is hungry for leadership that’s going to fight to make sure that we do what we promised the voters that we’re going to do,” Banks told the Washington Examiner on Sunday before taking the stage at Hinson’s second annual “BBQ Bash” in front of hundreds of grassroots Republicans. “Speaker-to-be McCarthy needs leaders around him who are going to help to push that agenda when we get the majority back.”
Banks, 43, is a Navy reservist first elected to Congress in 2016. He is chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of conservatives that pushes House GOP leadership to the right on policy and political matters. Over the years, chairing the group has been a springboard to House Republican leadership, propelling figures such as Scalise and former Vice President Mike Pence, who previously represented an Indiana congressional district.
Banks aims to follow in their footsteps, touting his work on the Republican Study Committee as a solid foundation from which to help lead what the GOP hopes will be a new House majority after four years in the minority. Also benefiting Banks’s pitch: He gets along well with Donald Trump; the two dined together the day after the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s residence and private club in Florida.
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But it’s McCarthy whom Banks seems most interested in wooing.
The congressman has unabashedly aligned himself with the California Republican, hoping to win his favor and, in the process, the contest for majority whip over the two other contenders: Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee; and Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA), chief deputy minority whip under Scalise. House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), No. 3-ranking in leadership, has not ruled out a bid but is not expected to run.
“Kevin McCarthy is going to be a great speaker — he’s about to roll out the ‘Commitment to America,’ which is a substantive agenda that we can sell to the voters,” Banks said. “It’s also important because it’s an agenda that the voters can hold us accountable for.”
House Republicans are favored to win the five net seats they need to capture the majority, at least.
But lately, nonpartisan political handicappers have downgraded their projected gains, as Democratic voters show increased enthusiasm to vote Nov. 8 despite President Joe Biden’s low job approval ratings, plus skyrocketing inflation and myriad other crises. A string of recent legislative accomplishments on Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade are credited for the more competitive 2022 environment.
Banks rejects the premise.
Still, he emphasized throughout the interview that Republicans cannot take victory for granted nor rely on a red wave to carry them. Perhaps surprisingly, Banks was most bullish about what Republicans might accomplish in the majority over the next two years despite the GOP’s history of missteps and infighting when its House reign coincides with a Democratic White House and Senate in which the party is in the minority or lacks the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster.
Banks’s optimism rests squarely on McCarthy.
“This is why Kevin McCarthy is going to be a very historic and strong speaker of the House; this is why I’m interested in doing everything I can to be a part of the team of leaders that backs him up,” he said. “I’m confident that we’ll be tougher and stronger than what Republican majorities have ever been before.”
“It’s a new Republican Party,” he added.
Banks’s confidence might be validated. But there’s little precedent for it.
After Republicans won historically large majorities in 2010, they failed to present a united front against President Barack Obama and a Democratic Senate majority. Republican attempts at moving policy incrementally to the right often imploded when the party’s insurgent conservatives withheld votes, forcing then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to rely on Democratic votes to clear must-pass bills to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling.
In one instance, with Obama refusing to sign legislation extending tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush, Boehner asked House Republicans to counter by supporting a tax increase only for households earning $1 million-plus. But a majority of Boehner’s majority refused to vote for any tax hike, and the plan died. (Even McCarthy, then majority whip, balked.) The result? The tax cuts expired for those earning above $400,000, and more people incurred an increase.
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Even under Trump, Republicans often had trouble reaching consensus among themselves, undermining their own legislative goals. But Banks insists this time will be different.
“We’ll have a couple of … must-pass bills, and those are leverage points to get things done that President Biden doesn’t want to do,” he said. “Kevin represents our majority. So, our majority understands that and will back Kevin up at the negotiating table. We’re tougher; we’re in a better position than those majorities before — and we know how to use them.”