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House Committee Shakeup Hinted

When Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) moved into position recently to snare the chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee, the lid came off the open secret that Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) is in the middle of an ethics investigation and may be asked by the GOP leadership to step down if the probe heats up.

The first hint of a possible change occurred when Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) said he would seek the chairmanship. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) also is mentioned as a possibility.

Normally, open jousting for leadership positions begin close to elections and congressional changeovers. That Garrett and Hensarling initiated bids almost a year before Bachus would face such a challenge for the post indicates mounting unrest over Bachus’ problems and how they reflect on the committee.

The Office of Congressional Ethics initiated its probe of Bachus at the end of December, looking into possible violations of insider-trading laws. Bachus’ annual financial disclosure forms sent investigators on the trail of several suspicious trades. Congressional aides tell HALthat ethics investigators have told Bachus that probable cause has been found to show that insider trading has occurred.

Bachus has been uncharacteristically subdued at the committee’s helm in recent weeks. Most of the committee activity has been on the subcommittee level. Bachus’ primary interest, the elimination of the Dodd-Frank law and its Consumer Financial Protection bureau, has been turned over to subcommittee chairs.

While Hensarling’s move came as a surprise considering his lower seniority position on the committee, aides say the Republican leadership urged the move to be in a position for smooth continuity of the committees’ operations. Hensarling would be required to relinquish his position as Republican Conference chairman, where he has earned high marks. He is also a member of the conservative Republican Study Conference.

Another hint that Hensarling might edge out Garrett for the spot is the move of his senior aide in the Republican Conference to become deputy staff director of the committee. Hensarling also is in an influential position as a member of the Republican Steering Committee, which selects candidates for chairmanships.

Reprinted from Housing Affairs Letter
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