The GOP Steering Committee on Monday tapped Rep. James Comer of Kentucky to be the top Republican on the Oversight and Reform Committee, placing him on the frontlines of fighting Democratic oversight efforts and filling a key post that has gone without a permanent leader for months.
During a closed-door Steering panel meeting in the basement of the Capitol, Republicans selected Comer — a businessman and farm owner who served as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture — to be the ranking member of the Oversight panel.
The race came down to a three-way competition between Comer, who came to Congress in 2017; Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and former talk radio host and pastor; and freshman Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, a West Point grad, combat veteran and ER physician.
All three lawmakers made their pitch before the Steering Committee, which includes members of leadership and a cross section of the GOP conference, though House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) vote holds the most weight. The full House GOP conference still must approve the Steering panel’s recommendation.
In recent years, the top GOP spot on the Oversight panel has gone to some of the party’s fiercest attack dogs, since the committee is the party’s first line of defense against Democratic-led investigations. Comer, however, has maintained a lower profile in the GOP conference. And the most fiery oversight action this year is expected to take place on the special select panel on coronavirus.
Earlier this year, House Republicans picked former Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) to be the ranking member of Oversight, but then he resigned his House seat to become the White House chief of staff. And the coronavirus crisis — which hit around the same time as Meadows’ departure — has mostly kept lawmakers away from the Capitol, preventing them from finding a replacement right away.
Before Meadows, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) served as ranking member on the Oversight Committee until he was tapped for the Judiciary panel. Jordan has been temporarily filling the top Oversight position until the GOP picks a replacement.
Members on the Steering panel said Comer was an appealing candidate because of his focus on reining in wasteful government spending.
“He’s one of those quieter members, but he is so well thought of and so well respected within the conference,” said Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.), the GOP’s chief deputy whip.
During Monday’s meeting, the committee also agreed to add Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) back to the Oversight panel.