By Melanie Zanona and Juliegrace Brufke
This article appeared on The Hill on April 18
A group of GOP lawmakers frustrated with the party’s messaging efforts want to use the leadership races to win more influence for younger members.
Roughly thirty lawmakers, a chunk of them under the age of 40, were slated to meet Wednesday to begin early discussions about how to get a bigger say in the GOP’s messaging strategy.
“There's certainly an appetite among the younger members to organize and to kind of figure out what direction we want to see our conference go after the Ryan era,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), 38, one of the most vulnerable Republicans running for reelection this fall.
While some young Republican members had been casually discussing for months forming a coalition to better represent their interests in Congress, the idea has taken on a new sense of urgency following Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) sudden retirement announcement last week.
At least one of the budding group’s members — freshman Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), 38 — is weighing a bid for Republican conference chairman, according to one GOP source. Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) is also contemplating throwing her hat in the ring for conference chair, according to another GOP source with knowledge of the situation.
“We need some of the millennial members of Congress at the table when the policy decisions are being made that will affect our generation as much as any,” said freshman Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a 35-year-old firebrand conservative who has made a name for himself through his constant stream of cable news appearances.
“There are a lot of the younger members that I've had informal discussions with that would like to see a younger person pursue one of the leadership positions.”
The band of lawmakers has no official name yet, and lawmakers involved in the effort don’t necessarily envision themselves as being a voting bloc on legislation.
“It’s still loose, it’s still early,” said Taylor. “I don’t know what it will look like it.”
“We’ve been discussing this randomly throughout the last year,” he added. “We’re like hey, this messaging stinks.”
One lawmaker pointed to the GOP tax-cut bill debate.
Some of the millennial members stood up and pitched the idea of creating a calculator for social media to demonstrate how people would stand to benefit from the legislation, which was still being debated at the time
“We were asking for that for a while. Nothing was heeded. And now, you go to the IRS website, and what do they have? An IRS calculator,” the lawmaker said. “And we take a beating for three months over the ‘tax scam.’ If we had done this on the front end, it would have spread like wildfire.”
Unlike the Democratic party, the House GOP has term limits for chairmanships, which has helped younger Republicans rise through the ranks more quickly.
But there is frustration among rank-and-file members about how much power Republican leadership has in the decision-making process.
“We've been frustrated that the boomers will get together and make the decisions and then come to the millennials and say, 'What's your advice on how we can message this,' ” Gaetz said. “That's like salting the gumbo at the end instead of salting it when you're cooking it.”
The group is still figuring out whether there is a young candidate that they could rally behind for a leadership post.
Some young members have their eye on the Republican conference chair — a job that is currently occupied by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and which has a hand in messaging.
Taylor is interested in running for the job, according to one GOP source, though it’s unclear whether he would be willing to challenge McMorris Rodgers for the spot.
Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), who is already a member of leadership as the Republican conference secretary, could also move up the ladder. But the 37-year-old is unlikely to challenge McMorris Rodgers, whom he has worked closely with on the leadership team.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is another name that has been floated as a potential candidate for some type of leadership role, a GOP source told The Hill.
If the young coalition is willing to band together and play hardball in the Speaker’s race, they would have the numbers to block any candidate from securing the gavel if the GOP hangs on to their majority.
Taylor acknowledged it’s “possible” that they could trade their votes for the next Speaker in exchange for a spot in leadership — a tactic that the House Freedom Caucus has tried to use in past leadership battles.
“This is politics, those things happen all the time,” Taylor said.
Gaetz said he believes the group is more focused on pushing younger members to seek higher positions than an attempt to upheave current leadership.
“That's been my challenge, because there's such a culture around here that the way you get into the leadership is you raise money for people, you spend a ton of time on committees,” Gaetz told The Hill, stressing he has no interest in seeking a leadership position.
“And in some ways some of those cultural elements of leadership races are discriminatory against younger people, who haven't been here as long, but still have a meaningful contribution.”