WASHINGTON — A lawmaker's bid to take the House Financial Services Committee gavel from Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is unlikely to prove successful, but the effort could have far-reaching implications for Republicans.
Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) whose term as chairman of the Agricultural Committee expires at the end of the year, suggested he is considering a run at the top spot on the financial services panel in an interview with Politico last week.
But it remains an uphill battle for Lucas, as there's little upside for leadership to further rock the boat. "There's no reason to doubt that Jeb Hensarling will be chair of the Financial Services Committee in 2015," said Isaac Boltansky, a policy analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading. "Lucas is an incredibly respected lawmaker and has a great track record on House Agricultural Committee, but it would take a massive political and policy push to get Lucas the gavel."
Andrew Duke, Hensarling's chief of staff, said in a statement the lawmaker "has already secured the support and votes" from Republican leadership to hold onto the chairmanship. A spokesman for Lucas did not respond to requests for comment.
John McKechnie, a former CUNA staffer who is now a partner at D.C.-based consulting firm Total Spectrum, said that congressional staffers "seem to think Mr. Lucas has a very good reputation."
But McKechnie added that Hensarling remains popular and "has pushed an agenda that the Republicans agree with, and [he] has been a very active and aggressive chairman."
The Oklahoma Republican previously expressed frustration with current leadership and the lack of progress reforming the Dodd-Frank Act. But McKechnie suggested such reforms are unlikely to happen regardless of who chairs the committee. "Republicans and Democrats are so far apart on basic questions of philosophy regarding Dodd-Frank, so even if a Republican majority passes a bill, I don't see a path for it to the president to sign it. He doesn't agree with the Republicans on it, they don't agree with him, and that's what makes it somewhat of an unbridgeable gap."
With Dodd-Frank reforms unlikely, it appears doubtful that a change in leadership would have any measurable impact on credit union issues, said McKechnie. "The challenge for credit unions continues to be making sure that members of Congress know that credit unions are unique, credit unions are different than other types of financial institutions, and that credit unions deserve to have their issues considered on their own merits and not the rough the prism of whatever the banking industry says credit unions should be," he said. "That's the challenge not only for those two members of Congress but for all 435 members of the House and all 100 members of the Senate."
While it's unclear whether Lucas will go forward with the bid, even the hint of a challenge is likely to impact House Republicans and the committee in several ways. Perhaps most significantly, it potentially weakens Hensarling's power negotiating within his own chamber and with his Senate counterparts. "The fallout is that the Financial Services Committee could be further marginalized compared to the Senate Banking Committee when the gavel passes to a new and more active chairman," said Brandon Barford, partner at Beacon Policy Advisors. "When there's this level of grumbling and even talk of a change in leadership it is a distraction and the committee is taken less seriously."
— Aaron Passman contributed to this report.