Palin drawn into House Financial Services Committee chairmanship fight

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The race for the powerful chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee, humming along largely behind the scenes, has received an Alaska-sized boost in visibility after one of the Republican contenders dissed ‘tea party’ heroine Sarah Palin.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, a conservative from Alabama in line to head the committee next year, drew the former Alaska governor into the debate when he spoke to the monthly luncheon of a local chamber of commerce in his district last week.

“Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate,’ Bachus told the group, according to a story in the Shelby County Reporter.

Bachus was talking about the losses by some Republican Senate candidates backed by Palin, such as Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. Others have suggested that a handful of flawed candidates favored by the tea party, including Sharron Angle in Nevada and Kevin Buck in Colorado, cost Republicans the seats they needed to take the majority in the Senate.


But as The Times reported this week, Bachus is in the middle of one of the few contested leadership races among the incoming House Republican majority. He is being publicly challenged by Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton.

Palin took strong exception to Bachus’ comments. In an interview with the Daily Caller, a conservative website, she blasted him for voting for the $700-billion Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout legislation and the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ auto rebate program, calling such programs ‘the Bachus bigger government agenda.’

In the current political environment, particularly among Republicans, that’s a bit like saying Bachus was really born in Kenya.

Royce is trying to outflank Bachus on the right. Royce voted against creating TARP and opposed the auto program. Bachus’ bailout support, which Palin highlighted, could be a problem with incoming Republican House members, most of whom campaigned against the bailout.

Many of them also are aligned with the tea party. Royce is a member of the House Tea Party Caucus. Bachus is not.

Bachus carries a good amount of bailout baggage into the chairmanship race.

Republicans said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is expected to become speaker, had concerns about Bachus in 2008 during congressional negotiations over the bailout legislation. Boehner replaced Bachus in the talks after he gave the mistaken impression at a news conference that Republicans had agreed to a deal crafted by a bipartisan group of senators.

Still, Boehner apparently backed Bachus to remain as the top Republican on the Financial Services Committee when the decision about party leadership was last made in late 2008.

Bachus’ staff noted that he complimented the tea party movement and Palin in his luncheon speech last week. But the Palin criticism got the headlines -- and could come back to bite him when House Republicans decide the Financial Services Committee chairmanship in coming weeks.

-- Jim Puzzanghera