- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2014

During his four terms in Congress, Rep. Steve Scalise, the new No. 3 man in House leadership, has been a major backer of American energy production, frequently visiting offshore oil rigs to tout the benefits of drilling in the U.S.

He also has staked out conservative credentials on spending, pushing a budget blueprint this year that slashed spending even faster than the outline offered by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

As chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the caucus of conservatives in the House, Mr. Scalise also has led efforts to have the RSC’s alternative to Obamacare brought up for a vote.

The Louisiana Republican, whose district encompasses the southeast corner of the state that includes much of the Gulf Coast south of New Orleans, regularly shuttles fellow Republicans down to visit offshore oil rigs with him.

“Obviously having a very pro-energy member [at] the leadership table” is significant, said Rep. John Fleming, a fellow Louisiana Republican. “I think that’s a tremendous development, because I think we’ll have more momentum in leadership.”

Mr. Scalise won the whip job last week in the chair shuffling that followed current Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s loss in a GOP primary. Mr. Scalise was seen as the choice of conservatives eager to install a voice of their own in the upper ranks of leadership.

His formal job will be trying to corral fellow Republicans’ support for bills. But many of his colleagues hope he’ll help head off some of the embarrassing intraparty fights that have riven the House GOP over the last 18 months.

Mr. Scalise won’t officially become whip until the end of July. But on Thursday, he announced his whip team, tapping Rep. Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina to be his chief deputy.

Mr. McHenry will replace Rep. Peter J. Roskam of Illinois, one of the two men Mr. Scalise defeated in the whip race. Rep. Marlin A. Stutzman of Indiana was the other.

The appointment of Mr. McHenry adds another staunchly conservative voice from a red state to the leadership team. But he chose a broad ideological and geographic mix for the other deputies: Reps. Kristi L. Noem of South Dakota, Dennis A. Ross of Florida, Aaron Schock of Illinois, Steve Stivers of Ohio, and Ann Wagner of Missouri.

In announcing his team, Mr. Scalise stressed unity over conservative ideological purity, saying he wanted to “ensure that the voices, interests and values of every member are represented at the table.”

“I will work relentlessly with our team to unite our conference and grow the vote,” he said.

It’s a big change from his role as chairman of the RSC, when he was responsible for being the conservative voice. During his tenure the RSC wrote strict budgets, including this year’s plan that they said would balance the budget in four years, compared to Mr. Ryan’s 10-year window, by freezing discretionary spending and raising eligibility ages for entitlement programs.

The RSC budget also repeals Obamacare and replaces it with the American Health Care Reform Act, an RSC product that would allow consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines and expands federal support for state-based high-risk pools.

Mr. Scalise had been pushing during the spring for a floor vote on the conservatives’ health care legislation — a direct response to Democrats’ oft-repeated criticism that the GOP wants to repeal the law with no alternative. But GOP leaders have been reluctant to offer an alternative, fearing it would give Democrats a target to shoot at heading into the November elections.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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