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Tipsheet

Is Becoming Majority Whip in the Bank for This Conservative Congressman?

Facebook via Republican Study Committee

On Monday, Axios came out with a report by Jonathan Swan suggesting that Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who currently chairs the Republican Study Committee (RSC), will be running for majority whip if Republicans take back the House. They are forecasted to do so. Swan's report details how a PAC known as American Leadership PAC was formed last month, mentioning it raised $2 million before the November 8 election. 

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Banks, as Swan explains, can only have a very limited role in the PAC, but appears determined to win the race:

  • As a candidate for federal office, Banks is barred from coordinating with the group. But he can help it fundraise as long as he himself does not explicitly ask any donor for more than $5,000.
  • The group is being overseen by GOP strategists Andy Surabian and James Blair. Surabian will be the super PAC's chief strategist.
  • Surabian told Axios that Banks "truly gets how President Trump remade the Republican Party for the better," and that the super PAC will help elect Republicans who share Banks' vision of the GOP as "working-class" conservatives defending values against an "authoritarian left."

Banks will not be running unopposed. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), who also currently chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA), currently the deputy minority whip, also appear to be running. 

While Rep. Emmer may have the bonafides of chairing the NRCC, which could particularly help or hurt him depending on how well Republicans do in the midterm elections, there are some distinctions in their records that may help Rep. Banks. 

Last month, Nate Hochman wrote a piece for National Review Online scrutinizing the candidates' records. When it comes to potential criticism there he highlights:

...Emmer, who has served as the NRCC chair since 2019, has generally aligned with the middle of the GOP establishment — his 2021 ACU score was 74 percent, making him the 202nd-most conservative Republican in Congress according to that scale. Aspects of his record on immigration and cultural issues have invited criticism from some conservatives.

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Emmer’s overall record reflects a more moderate streak: His Heritage Action scorecard rating for the 117th Congress was 89 percent — 60 members away from the lowest-scoring Republican, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick — and behind both Ferguson and Banks, who were both awarded 95 percent ratings from the conservative advocacy group. In an emailed statement, NRCC communications director Michael Adams told NR that “Chairman Emmer is focused on the most important issue right now: firing Nancy Pelosi and electing a conservative Republican House majority.” But aspects of the NRCC’s chair record have also invited criticism from both social conservatives and some Trump-aligned activists and commentators.

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On social issues, the top Republican raised eyebrows by voting to codify the right to same-sex marriage earlier this year, and was one of just nine Republicans to join House Democrats in voting to block the Trump administration’s ban on transgender soldiers in the military in 2019. (Banks and Ferguson were both among the 182 Republicans who voted against the measure.) Emmer has also backed efforts to mandate sexual-orientation and gender-identity (SOGI) protections for government contractors on four different occasions, including in a 2016 vote for the ratification of a 2014 Obama executive order. All of these initiatives were the subject of fierce criticism from social conservatives. Heritage Action, which opposed the measure — known as the Maloney Amendment — argued that “in practice, it would have required federal contractors to grant biologically male employees who identify as women unfettered access to women’s lockers, showers, and bathrooms.”

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When it comes to that recent vote from Emmer in July on codifying same-sex marriage, not only has there been criticism about the bill not being necessary, but there are concerns that the bill would negatively impact religious freedom. 

Potential concerns with Emmer extend beyond his voting record, but also his standing with former President Donald Trump, whom Rep. Banks is considered more closely aligned.  

Hochman referenced a POLITICO report by Ben Leonard from March of last year highlighting how Emmer cautioned the former president against getting involved in primaries where pro-impeachment Republicans were running. Out of the 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment, six ran for re-election, and only two won their primaries, though one of them, Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), is having a tough re-election campaign. 

Emmer is also referenced in a CNN report from August by Melanie Zanona, "‘I don’t say his name, ever’: Vulnerable Republicans seek to avoid Trump in 2022 midterms." The member quoted in the headline is anonymous. 

As Zanona began her piece:

The man in charge of the House GOP’s campaign strategy has been doling out advice to Republican candidates and incumbents in key battleground races as they prepare for the general election: Don’t be distracted by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, and instead focus on the issues Republicans believe will be most salient to voters in the midterms.

The guidance from Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, relayed by three GOP sources familiar with the internal conversations, reflects a tacit acknowledgment among Republican leaders that the former president could knock the GOP’s midterm messaging off course as they seek to recapture the House majority this fall. It also represents a shift from the strategy deployed in many Republican primaries, where embracing Trump – or at least not alienating him and his base – was seen as essential to survival.

The dynamic that House Republicans are now grappling with underscores the continued challenge Trump’s influence over the GOP poses for the party – a challenge that will only intensify if the former President decides once again to run for the White House in 2024.

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In contrast, Banks and the RSC have a strong record on both social issues and on fiscal ones, with Hochman highlighting how "Blueprint to Save America," the RSC budget for FY 2023, "earned praise from fiscal and social conservatives alike," including from the Tax Foundation.

The budget also has a heavy pro-life emphasis and other socially conservative issues, as the RSC has had overall. 

Townhall in June received a first look at the section titled "Opposing Federal Efforts to Redefine Gender and Protecting Conscience Rights," which notes that the "RSC Budget reaffirms our commitment to oppose federal efforts to redefine sex and gender, protect women, girls, and children, and secure conscience rights. We condemn the efforts of President Biden and Congressional Democrats to undermine these values."

That section of the budget also references legislation the RSC supports, including Rep. Greg Steube's the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act. In April, Rep. Banks issued a discharge petition on the bill. As of Monday, it has 187 signers. 

The importance of protecting children from the woke, transgender agenda has become even more critical since then, given not just the policy views of Democrats at the congressional and state level, but actions of the federal government as well. 

In addition to events at the White House celebrating transgender children and demonizing state laws that would protect women's sports, the Biden administration is looking to radically change Title IX

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During a May committee hearing, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona indicated to Rep. Banks that the administration supports biological boys competing against girls in sports. Cardona also wouldn't commit to saying schools shouldn't keep it a secret from parents if their children are transitioning. 

Also in June, the RSC released a framework for "Restoring the American Family Principles." And in late September, the RSC released the "Family Policy Agenda."

Jon Schweppe, who is the director of policy & government affairs at the American Principles Project (APP), which places a focus on social issues, such as protecting women's sports, has not been shy about opposing Emmer. 

"If House Republicans want to demonstrate that they're serious about taking on the woke Left, they need to pick a conservative Member with street cred to join leadership," Schweppe said in an email statement for Townhall. 

"Tom Emmer is a liberal Republican who will use his power to stymie conservative efforts on cultural issues. His voting record is a disaster by almost any metric, and his leadership at the NRCC has been lacking. It's clear he would rather run away from social issues than fight the culture war to save America. He is essentially "controlled opposition" and conservative voters are sick and tired of that type of Republican," he also offered, linking to Hochman's piece. 

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"We have an opportunity to usher in a Reagan-like revolution in the coming years. House Republicans should take advantage -- and lead the way," Schweppe concluded.

His opposition has also been quoted in Hochman's piece as well as the Star Tribune, which is the largest newspaper in Minnesota. The APP Twitter account shared the piece with Schweppe's quote on Monday.


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