Blunt Resigns as Minority Whip

There is talk of a shakeup in the Republicans’ House leadership. Scott and I were on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show last night, and Hugh is trying to drum up support for a move to dump John Boehner as Minority Leader in favor of Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Ryan is, I think, one of several excellent young Republicans in the House. But I don’t have the sense that the Republicans’ problems relate to their House leadership. On the contrary, the conventional wisdom is that a Senate minority has a lot of power, a House minority virtually none. During the time they have been in the minority, I think the House Republicans have been quite effective, through motions to recommit and other procedural tactics.

I also think Boehner and other House leaders did a good job of publicizing their support for energy development (and the Democrats’ opposition), especially when they commandeered the House floor after Nancy Pelosi declared the House in recess, and went on talking about energy. If the energy issue hadn’t been swept aside by other economic problems, which in turn caused the price of petroleum do drop, that effort could have been very important to this year’s elections.

My own Congressman, John Kline, thinks highly of Boehner, and the House Republicans as a group selected him as their leader. They are in a far better position than anyone else to decide who can lead them most effectively, and I’m happy to defer to their collective judgment.

Having said that, a shakeup may be on the way. Today, House Whip Roy Blunt resigned. He opened a letter that he wrote to himself two years ago, pledging to step down as Whip if the Republicans failed to recapture the majority this year. Blunt will be replaced by Virginia’s Eric Cantor, another of the Republicans’ rising young stars. Cantor is currently Blunt’s chief deputy.

In my view, the Republicans’ problem doesn’t lie with their leadership, it lies in their inability in recent years to articulate conservative principles and apply them to legislation in a way that the American people find persuasive. To a great extent, their ability to do this was undermined by the fact that some Republicans were more interested in cementing their own popularity through spending increases. Being in the minority may well free Republicans to go back to taking principled, conservative stands on legislation. If so, good leadership will be important, but so will having a number of articulate, persuasive spokesmen to frame the issues and the make the case for the Republican side in a way that resonates with the public.

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