Politics & Government

South Carolina’s Joe Wilson to seek Foreign Affairs Committee gavel

Rep. Joe Wilson is officially running to be the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The South Carolina lawmaker confirmed his intentions to McClatchy on Wednesday to formally seek the post after a period of exploring the possibility.

Wilson won’t have a straight shot to winning the committee gavel.

First, he’s likely going up against other House Republicans who want the job. His stiffest competition is Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, a well-liked, telegenic lawmaker who at the end of this Congress has to give up his chairmanship of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Wilson also has personal baggage to overcome.

He’s best known for shouting “You Lie” at President Barack Obama during the president’s 2009 address to Congress on health care legislation.

And he has been in the news again over the past week for being duped into endorsing arming toddlers with firearms on camera — a stunt for the new television show from provocateur Sacha Baron Cohen, who disguised himself as an Israeli anti-terror expert to get face time with Wilson on Capitol Hill.

Wilson benefits by being slightly more senior than McCaul in the Foreign Affairs Committee membership rankings.

He can also point to relationships he’s developed over his 17 years in Congress, which he has bolstered by reaching into his wallet. Helping members with their own campaign coffers is a tactic nearly all members of Congress use when they want to keep their leadership positions or rise in leadership ladder.

In 2018 so far, Wilson has used his personal campaign account and leadership political action committee to contribute money to over three dozen colleagues and candidates. He had $611,557 cash on hand in both accounts combined on June 30.

He’s given money to Reps. Tom Emmer of Minnesota and David Schweikert of Arizona, two Republicans who serve on the Steering Committee, the influential panel of party leaders and appointees who recommend committee assignments. Wilson attended a fundraiser for Rep. Tom Reed of New York, another GOP Steering Committee member, as well.

Wilson is also a Republican Party team player and loyal defender of President Donald Trump, guaranteeing he will hold the line either as Foreign Affairs Committee chairman or, should Democrats take back control of the House, the ranking member.

Wilson said he made the decision to formally seek the post within the past few weeks, citing positive feedback from peers.

“I’m doing one-on-one meetings with foreign affairs committee members, but also members in general and members of the Steering Committee,” said Wilson. “I’ve been getting a good response.”

The Foreign Affairs Committee conducts oversight of various U.S. diplomatic functions and agencies, including the Department of State, the United Nations and the Peace Corps.