Thaddeus McCotter’s brilliant idea to save taxpayers money 

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) wants to eliminate his own job. Well, not the whole congressman thing, but the plum position he holds as chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.

The committee costs taxpayers $360,000 annually and McCotter believes that money could be better spent to pay down the national debt. After all, if Republicans are going to lead by example, what better way to do it than cut government spending that’s duplicative and superfluous.

“I ran for government to make it smaller,” McCotter told me in an interview. “We’ve got to start somewhere.”

The Republican Policy Committee was originally created in 1949. Today its purpose is to “develop sound legislative ideas into meaningful legislation.” But that mission overlaps with the work of the House Republican Conference and Republican Study Committee, which have larger budgets and perform their own policy work. In addition, each House committee has its own staff formulating policy ideas and other leadership offices employ their own policy experts.

As a result, McCotter said there’s no need for his job. He came into the position in November 2006 hoping to transform the Republican Policy Committee, but in the process realized there were more effective ways for the GOP to do its work.

“In an entrepreneurial setting, we don’t need this bureaucratic anachronism,” he said. “We let the working groups on the stimulus take jurisdiction of that, we let the Blunt energy task force take jurisdiction, we let the health care working group have jurisdiction. The Policy Committee members ended up serving on those groups -- and the ideas actually came to fruition.”

But like any Washington institution, eliminating the Republican Policy Committee won’t come easily. Roll Call reported last week that two Republican leaders, Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), balked at the idea when it was proposed. Because it’s viewed by some as a patronage job for an ally or potential rival, there’s hesitation to do away with it.

McCotter, who has a seat at the leadership table as the No. 4 ranking Republican, thinks his colleagues will eventually come around to support the idea. It would take a vote of the entire House GOP caucus to eliminate the committee, then approval from Congress to zero out the budget in the legislative branch appropriations bill.

At a time when Americans are frustrated with government spending, McCotter said Republicans need to follow through on their promises to change Congress with concrete actions.

“The public isn’t sold that we’ve learned our lesson,” McCotter said. “It gives us a lot more credibility to start cutting other government spending if we’ve already started cutting and reforming our own operation.”

Admittedly, McCotter’s idea would hardly put a dent in the national debt, but it’s the principle that counts. Very few politicians would ever voluntarily forfeit the power, privileges and perks of a position like McCotter’s. He deserves praise for doing the right thing.

Bluey directs the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation.

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Rob Bluey

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