- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2006

The House majority whip’s race is an indication of just how conservative the House Republican Conference has become.

Two 1994 Republican revolutionaries and two fast-rising Republican stars face off in a contest they all say is about making the party refocus on basic conservative principles.

“Sometimes old institutions tend to drift away from their original intention. I thought I could be that breath of fresh air and just provide some direction of why we do what we do,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and one of the candidates.

He is running against Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas and Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee. Mr. Tiahrt and Mr. Wamp were part of the Class of 1994, while Mr. Rogers and Mr. Cantor were elected in 2000.

All four rank among the most conservative members of the House: They earned “A” or “A+” grades from the National Rifle Association, had strong marks from the National Taxpayers Union and have lifetime ratings of 90 percent or better from the American Conservative Union.

The whip, the No. 3 position in the Republican hierarchy, is supposed to assess where House Republicans are on issues and build support for Republican priorities.

As of now, it’s not clear the position will even be open. The current whip, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, is running for majority leader but has not relinquished his seat.

For that reason the whip’s race has been far less public. Mr. Rogers has been the most active publicly, giving a series of speeches this week on issues such as intelligence and economic competitiveness.

The former FBI agent says he has experience winning close races — he won his congressional seat by 111 votes in 2000 and, before that, won a Michigan Senate leadership election by one vote — that will serve him well as whip.

He said Republicans are right on the issues, but they need to do a better job of communicating them.

“If we are going to be relevant for Americans, we have to be able to sit around any kitchen table in this country with our principles, our conservative principles about smaller, efficient government, about a helping hand, not a handout,” he said.

Unlike the majority leader’s race, those in the whip’s race are not releasing lists of publicly committed members.

Mr. Wamp is positioning himself as the person willing to challenge the conference.

“This is a real challenge for us to hold our majority and who’s willing to push the reforms that are needed,” he said.

He said he’s the only one of the four who is not part of the current whip’s team, and therefore the only one outside of the political team Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas built.

Mr. Tiahrt said being on the whip’s team is a key benefit. “I’ve got the most experience of people in this race.”

He has taken a major role in pushing American economic competitiveness and said as whip he would push for the House to do more by doing less.

He said they often step on their own toes, passing good bills but drowning out that message by doing too much.

“It’s important that we have a firm, focused voice on our leadership team that brings us back to a smarter schedule that brings legislation to the floor that reflects who we are and why we’re in Washington,” he said.

Mr. Cantor said reform means more than just the scandals — it means returning to balanced budgets, changing the spending process and reforming the tax system.

“My goal is 10 months from now when we have an election, not for voters to be going to the polls with the choice of how do we clean up Congress,” he said.

On spending reforms, Mr. Cantor said he will lead by example and reduce the number of earmarks he submits.

“At the end of the day we will be well-led, and it will be a conservative. There probably isn’t a hair’s-breadth difference between Cantor, Rogers, Wamp and Tiahrt in voting [records],” Mr. Rogers said.

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