Bachus Vs. Royce: The Joys Of Political Smackdown

BLOG VIEW: Political junkies in need of a new fix can take pleasure in the fight that is emerging between Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., and Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., for the chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee. No matter how it turns out, it promises to be the start of a new season of Washington-style smackdown.

If you haven't been following this story, here's what's going on: Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives on Election Day and, thus, gained control of the committees and subcommittees therein. Bachus was the ranking member of House Financial Services Committee while the Democrats were in control, and tradition would accord him immediate ascension to chairmanship based on his seniority.

However, two days after the election, Royce abruptly announced that he was the right man for the job. Royce declared that he was pursuing the chairmanship by stressing his entrepreneurial cred while pouring in Tea Party talking points for extra spice.

‘With a business background, I understand the importance of a limited, functional federal government that allows business to thrive,’ Royce said. ‘It is time to change the message coming from Washington and provide business with a modicum of certainty.’

Yes, this is the same Royce that was first elected to political office in 1983, served in Congress since 1993 and received over $544,000 in financial services industry campaign donations for his 2010 re-election campaign. As for his ‘business background,’ Royce ran a cement company more than three decades ago – whether that qualifies him for bringing order to today's financial services industry is open to debate.

However, Royce has a heavy hitter backing him in this scuffle: The Wall Street Journal's editorial board took a bold step into the debate, slamming Bachus as being ‘on the wrong side of the debate’ surrounding the efforts to reform the government-sponsored enterprises while calling him ‘the single largest House recipient of campaign cash from Fannie and Freddie from 1989 to 2008.’

Why is the Wall Street Journal on Bachus' back? It didn't help that Bachus surveyed the post-Election Day clutter and immediately proclaimed that Sarah Palin's endorsement of zany Tea Party candidates prevented the Republicans from regaining control of the U.S. Senate. Palin is part of the commentator lineup at Fox News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. – which, not coincidentally, also controls the Wall Street Journal.

For his part, Bachus isn't breaking a sweat. ‘I've spoken to my colleagues on the steering committee and in [the party] leadership and am grateful for their expression of support and fully expect to serve as chairman,’ he said in a statement. ‘There is no lack of talent on our committee, and I look forward to implementing a new leadership style that will empower our strong bench of leaders to pass our legislative agenda.’

But is this fight really worth it? Whoever takes the chairmanship will probably spend the next two years gobbling aspirin, antacid, or whatever medicated balm will ease internal discomforts. The committee will be tackling tough issues, starting with the long-overdue reform of the government-sponsored enterprises, and then making sense of the Dodd-Frank Act miasma. Couple that with a Democratic-controlled Senate and White House and with a national economy that is nowhere near stabilizing, and the committee will produce nothing but anger-rich sound bites and content-poor results.

Of course, that doesn't include the arrival – cue the kazoo music – of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, as the new chairman will of the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy. If the level of interncine tumult is bad now, wait until the iconolcastic Paul starts swinging a gavel. Personally, I can't wait for ol' Dr. Gold Standard to bring his distinctive brand of knockabout to the House floor, especially if he tries to reign in the Federal Reserve – Paul, as you remember, once suggested eliminating the Fed completely.

Nonetheless, this early scuffle seems to suggest that the next two years will be rife with plenty of elbowing and grandstanding. Yeah, it may be more show than substance – but for those of us who love a good political brawl, it should be a highly entertaining show.

– Phil Hall, editor, Secondary Marketing Executive

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