As a proud libertarian working in Congress, it is easy to adopt a nihilistic tone. While it is great see members like Justin Amash and Thomas Massie communicate the message of liberty on the House floor – the direction of the GOP caucus is often not that discernable from the Democrats across the aisle. So while it is worth celebrating the resignation of Speaker John Boehner, it means nothing if he is replaced with more of the same. Luckily, there stands one possible candidate that can shake things up in Washington – Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas.
In January 2012, Congressman Jeb Hensarling took over the gavel of the Financial Services Committee from Spencer Bachus of Alabama. Even as a staffer who closely followed FSC hearings, I did not know what to expect from the new Texan chairman. His rhetoric during committee hearings was almost always strong and pointed, but talk is worth less than a Venezuelan bolivar within the beltway. Plus, he was leaving a leadership position as House Republican Conference Chairman. I considered the Financial Services Committee one of the most important chairs in the House – what would Hensarling seek to do with it?
As it turns out, a great deal.
From the beginning, Hensarling laid out a three part agenda: 1. Reform the US housing market on free market principles, killing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. 2. Continue the fight on Dodd-Frank and try to reign in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 3. Oversee and reform the Federal Reserve.
While these may seem like common sense steps for any good conservative, each one carried with it unique challenges. Several Republican members of the committee viewed Fannie and Freddie as vital institutions, while others were reliable fenders of the Fed. But Hensarling understood how important these issues were and set about trying to act on them.
During his first year, Hensarling was able to best the GSE defenders and passed the PATH Act through his committee. Though it would never receive a vote in the Boehner-Cantor controlled House, it represented a serious step in the right direction to decouple government from the US housing market.
Meanwhile, Hensarling’s committee conducted through investigative hearings over some of the most outrageous aspects of Dodd-Frank – including an increasingly out of control and leaderless CFPB.
Lastly, Hensarling has been one of Janet Yellen’s most forceful critics in Washington. While I am personally do not share the Congressman’s enthusiasm for the Taylor Rule, it would be encouraging to have a Republican leader who grasps the importance of monetary policy.
I’ve always been fond of the Thatcher quote “First you win the argument, then you win the vote.” After years of watching Speaker Boehner consistently fail to win either, the Republicans in the House have an opportunity for a new direction. If we’ve learned anything from the early months of the 2016 primary race, it’s just how frustrated Republican voters are with the GOP establishment. What would better illustrate the tone deftness of the DC GOP than simply promoting Kevin McCarthy?
The GOP needs a vision. It needs a positive platform of reform to reign in Washington.
It needs Jeb Hensarling.