Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Speaker Fight Gives Garrett Boost in D.C

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Speaker Fight Gives Garrett Boost in D.C

Article excerpt

In July, moderate Republicans in the House wanted Speaker John Boehner to strip Rep. Scott Garrett, New Jersey's most conservative congressman, of his subcommittee chairmanship. That effort came a short time after Garrett told Republican leaders that he would not contribute to or raise money for his party's campaign committee because it supported gay candidates.

But last month, it was Boehner who decided to give up his gavel, and last week the man he favored to succeed him as speaker, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, withdrew his candidacy. A major factor in both events was opposition from the 30 to 40 members of the arch- conservative House Freedom Caucus, co-founded by Garrett.

Now Garrett's position as chairman of a subcommittee that regulates Wall Street may have become even safer. As a leader of a group the next speaker will be seeking to woo, Garrett appears less likely to face a reprimand for not paying his party dues.

While it could still turn out that moderates get the next speaker to marginalize the power of the Freedom Caucus -- Rep. Peter King, R- N.Y., said Friday that the group "should have been crushed long ago" -- the only way a Republican could become speaker without Freedom Caucus votes is by brokering a deal with Democrats.

What is far from clear, however, is whether the leadership battle will provide a long-term political boost to Garrett himself.

Most of his colleagues in the Freedom Caucus are from solidly Republican districts, where the biggest threat to their incumbency is a right-wing challenge in a primary. Members were angered last month by Boehner's willingness to include financing for Planned Parenthood in a short-term budget to keep the government operating from Nov. 1, the first day of the fiscal year, to Dec. 11.

Even though a Senate bill to defund Planned Parenthood had failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance, the House conservatives continued to insist on defunding, a stance that could have led to a partial government shutdown.

For Garrett's colleagues from deep-red districts, it could be more politically damaging to vote for a deal to prevent a shutdown than to oppose one and cause a shutdown. But is the same true for Garrett?

So far he has not paid any political price for being New Jersey's most conservative member of Congress, with a record of often voting against measures the rest of the state's Republican delegation supports.

He has opposed many spending bills and most increases in the federal debt limit, arguing that Congress needs to take concrete steps, including deep cuts to domestic programs, to bring down spending.

Garrett lives in Sussex County, a GOP bastion, but his district is dominated by voters in Bergen. While the district leans Republican, Democratic strongholds like Hackensack and most of Teaneck were added when the congressional map was redrawn in 2011. …

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