In other House select committee, top Republican sees opportunity for economic messaging

There is another select committee in the House created by Democrats arguably formed with a political purpose. But unlike the Jan. 6 committee, with this one, Republicans see an opportunity to communicate their own priorities on prime concerns that could drive campaigns in 2022 and even lay the groundwork for addressing economic problems in a bipartisan way.

The official name of the panel is the Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth. Republicans call it by a different name: the Select Committee on the Economy.

"They covered every liberal buzzword they could," Republican ranking member Bryan Steil, who represents the Wisconsin district previously held by former Speaker Paul Ryan, told the Washington Examiner in an interview.

He brought up former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher being questioned on a widening gap between the poor and the rich on her last day in office in 1990. She responded that all income levels were better off than when she became prime minister in 1979 and that the questioner "would rather the poor were poorer provided the rich were less rich."


In one sense, it's the congressional select committee expression of the decadeslong divide on whether more or less government intervention is better for organizing the economy and society, weighing the priorities of ensuring social equity against ease of personal and societal economic growth.

But in another, in Steil's view, it is a vehicle for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to highlight and showcase their preferred policies. She has already held a press conference with Democratic committee members to flaunt sweeping programs such as a permanent increase in the child tax credit and universal preschool in Democrats' now-stalled Build Back Better Act.

Republicans hope to utilize the committee too, particularly as poll numbers show dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden's handling of the economy as inflation rises, and signs point to a favorable environment for Republicans heading into the 2022 midterm elections.

"It gives us an amazing opportunity to highlight how conservatives have answers to the biggest challenges of the day with a pro-growth agenda," Steil said.

Partisan relations in the committee got off to a rocky start.

Last summer, Pelosi blocked two of House Minority Leader McCarthy's picks for the House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 riot, prompting him to pull his other three recommendations to sit on the riot panel.

Less noticed was that McCarthy also protested Pelosi's never-before-seen veto by putting a hold on his picks from the economic select committee, whom he announced on the same day as the Jan. 6 committee choices. Republicans were not present for the panel's first two hearings.

McCarthy quietly put his six picks back on the committee in early October, and Republicans were present at the panel's third event held in Ohio later that month.

Since then, the committee, chaired by Democratic Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, has held low-key yet substantive hearings about how to address people without bank accounts, the effects of automation, the economy in rural areas, and other topics.

Though high-profile Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Pramila Jayapal of Washington sit alongside Republicans who regularly appear on Fox News, such as Florida Reps. Kat Cammack and Byron Donalds, there haven't been any big blowups, viral moments, or sparks flying in the meetings.

"There's plenty to disagree about, right? There's no need for name-calling. There's no need to disparage other people's objectives," Steil said. "We've actually so far been successful at avoiding the hyperbole, the name-calling, the things that personally drive me nuts about D.C. — but actually being a platform for pretty substantive conversations about the issues."

It also provides a unique single forum to address economic problems normally addressed in separate committees. Steil even sees potential for the committee to identify economic policy concerns that can be addressed in a bipartisan way.

"I'm not offering that ... the two parties are going to come together and have the 'Kumbaya' home run moment. Maybe we will. I'm optimistic, right? But I'll wait until that flows out," Steil said. "By the end, there will be singles and doubles where we will come out and say, ‘OK, this is a substantive problem we both agree on. How can we address it?'"


The committee may also be a hint on where McCarthy stands on the economic populism versus free-market battle brewing in the Republican Party that came along with the rise of former President Donald Trump. Steil, who spent a decade working in the manufacturing sector, not only holds free market enthusiast Ryan's old seat in southeast Wisconsin but used to work for his legislative office and got his endorsement.

Steil doesn't see such a stark divide among Republicans, though. Taking the issue of trade, for example: "I think it is so important is that it's free, fair, and reciprocal. And so there were some conservatives and argued for free and fair trade but forgot about the reciprocal aspect."

Original Location: In other House select committee, top Republican sees opportunity for economic messaging


Washington Examiner Videos

Sign Up For Free: Denver AM Update

Your morning rundown of the latest news from overnight and the stories to follow throughout the day.

Success! Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.