U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy will not be running for House majority leader, despite conservatives’ efforts to draft him to the position.
The Spartanburg Republican, chairman of the House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks, received a flood of endorsements Tuesday from fellow lawmakers who hoped to encourage him to make a bid for the House of Representatives’ second most powerful job.
But asked late Tuesday whether he is running for majority leader, Gowdy answered: “I’m not.”
Instead, Gowdy wishes to remain focused on his current responsibilities, his spokeswoman said.
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“Chairman Gowdy is focused on the Benghazi committee,” said spokeswoman Amanda Duval. “Honoring his current commitment to the Benghazi Select Committee is most important to him.”
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, started the draft-Gowdy movement Tuesday morning by touting the Upstate congressman during an appearance on Fox News Channel.
“The Republican conference needs someone who can unite the body, who can represent us far and wide, and who can articulate the message, and you know what, Trey Gowdy is the best person to do that,” Chaffetz said. “If you want the best person to make the Republican case, if you want the best person to talk about why conservatism is the right answer for America, Trey Gowdy is our best foot forward. I think Trey Gowdy as the majority leader would be heaven-sent.”
Afterwards, Chaffetz tweeted he “made my best pitch this morning on @FoxNews that Trey Gowdy @TGowdySC should be our next Majority Leader.”
Also active on twitter was U.S. Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, who typed, “Join me in drafting Trey Gowdy for Majority Leader.”
However, fellow Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., later tweeted that he had spoken with Gowdy and he was not interested in the post.
“After talking w' @TGowdySC for 20 mins, he made it clear that he is OUT of any consideration for any leadership position,” Mulvaney posted.
Gowdy’s role on the Benghazi committee makes it difficult for the lawmaker to imagine doing anything else, Mulvaney said.
“He said he had thought about it last night and he decided that he wants to do what he knows he can do best, which is work the Benghazi committee and stay with it to its full completion,” Mulvaney told McClatchy. “Trey’s a very project-oriented guy – he would never leave a case in the middle – and I think he looks at Benghazi the same way. He knows what he’s doing and he knows he can help the effort there. I’m not sure he knows if he’d be a good majority leader.”
Though it’s unlikely Gowdy actively will campaign for the No. 2 spot, he’d accept the position were it forced upon him, Chaffetz countered.
“Trey Gowdy is not the kind of person who’s going to go out and overtly campaign for it,” Chaffetz said. “But if the conference rallies behind him, I think he would reluctantly serve. I’ve talked to Gowdy as recently as a few minutes ago, so I feel pretty confident in that position.”
However, Gowdy has an aversion to “personal conflict” that would make it difficult to tackle the challenges of being majority leader, Mulvaney said.
“I can’t imagine,” Mulvaney said when asked if he thought Gowdy would bow to pressure. “Trey thrives on professional conflict; he doesn’t thrive on personal conflict. It’s hard to be majority leader if you can’t handle personal conflict.”
‘Majority Leader Gowdy sounds like a great idea’
Gowdy’s roller-coaster ride as a potential House majority leader is a testament to the restiveness among the House’s younger generation of conservatives, who want more than assurances from above about their influence in the wake of the resignation announcement of House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.
They want a high-profile seat at the leadership table — and to inject some swagger into a party that for months has been meekly navigating through infighting and chaos.
Enter Gowdy, 51, a former prosecutor who chaired the House Select Committee on Benghazi to acclaim from the party’s grass-roots as it investigated Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
In recent days, Gowdy’s allies, all under 50 — including South Carolina’s Mulvaney and Utah’s Mia Love and Chaffetz — stoked talk that Gowdy could indeed be drafted for majority leader.
The movement picked up speed Monday night when conservatives huddled with each other on Capitol Hill.
Mulvaney, who is part of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of hardliners, pitched Gowdy to his circle, and Chaffetz sent the word to his own network. Love, a freshman and the first black Republican woman elected to Congress, did the same.
By Tuesday morning, the House GOP was abuzz that Gowdy was perhaps going to run, even though the Spartanburg Republican hadn’t yet made a call to his group of friends.
Chaffetz held court with reporters, winking as he all but confirmed Gowdy’s intentions. Love sent out a formal endorsement that made headlines. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who may be the lawmaker closest to Gowdy in Congress, wrote teasingly on Twitter: “Been getting a few questions this morning … all I can say is Majority Leader Gowdy sounds like a great idea.”
By Tuesday afternoon, however, Gowdy, who is preparing to question Clinton when she appears before his committee next month, sought to throw some cold water on the simmering draft movement.
Whether Gowdy could have beaten the the current contenders for majority leader — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Budget Committee chairman Tom Price of Georgia — was far from guaranteed.
Scalise is popular with members but a low-key presence. Price is a taciturn, respected conservative who has devoted his career to limiting government spending.
When coupled with the mild-mannered House Majority Leader Kevin O. McCarthy, R-Calif., who is the front-runner to win the race for speaker, many House Republicans were looking at an upper echelon of leadership that lacked a firebrand, despite widespread frustration among base voters. They wanted the kind of leader who could and would tangle happily with Democrats on cable news.
That’s why Gowdy had a shot, according to several veteran House Republicans. He may not have Price’s reservoir of knowledge on fiscal matters or Scalise’s ability to count votes and take members’ temperature. But Gowdy represents what many younger conservatives feel is necessary after Boehner: a change in presentation. Elected as part of the Tea Party wave of 2010, Gowdy also would have been a visible symbol of their ascendancy.
The Washington Post also contributed