ANALYSIS: Amid GOP Leadership Battles, Hageman Seeks a Middle Path

Speaking at a conservative conference in Arizona, the Congresswoman-elect promised to “take power out of D.C.”

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Congresswoman-elect Harriet Hageman addresses the crowd at a conservative conference in Arizona on Tuesday as she navigates GOP leadership battles brewing behind the scenes. (Photo via TPUSA).

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

WASHINGTON — One day after lawmakers for the first time in history proposed prosecution of a former president, and as Congress scrambles to finalize a last-ditch push to fund the federal government ahead of a looming shutdown, Congresswoman-elect Harriet Hageman has found herself treading a thin line.

Hageman has emerged as something of a conservative darling, seen as a kingslayer to some on the right for ousting Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). Still, the D.C. newcomer’s public statements — and lack thereof — on matters pertaining to GOP leadership battles reveal a figure deftly pursuing some of the same Washington power she so often decries.

On Tuesday, Hageman was in Arizona for “AmericaFest 2022,” a political festival organized by the conservative youth activist group Turning Point USA (TPUSA).

“How does it feel to be the most popular Congresswoman in America?” Tyler Bowyer, an event organizer and chief operating officer of TPUSA, asked while introducing Hageman.

“All I can say is: we beat Liz Cheney,” Hageman responded.

In her conversation with Bowyer, Hageman fashioned herself as a portrait of conservative ideals, the picture-perfect GOP Congresswoman. “I’m a fourth generation Wyomingite,” Hageman noted. “We as Congress have to block the radical agenda. We have to do everything in our power to protect you, the citizens of the United States.”

Hageman remarks were received with cheers and raucous applause from conference attendees. “This is maybe the smartest person I’ve ever met in my life,” Bowyer said of Hageman at one point.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, hands the gavel to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., before he speaks during the first day of the Republican National Convention Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

But while other conference speakers detailed their thoughts on the future of Republican politics, Hageman left unaddressed her stances on the leadership issues currently dominating GOP circles.

“I will do everything in my power to restore the United States of America to the great country that it is, restore your freedom and liberty, and take power out of D.C,” she said in concluding remarks.

All in for McCarthy, but mum on McDaniel

A key question still looms large heading into the holidays: who will be Speaker of the House in the new year?

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the current Minority Leader and longtime speaker aspirant, has thus far failed to lock in the 218 votes required to earn the gavel. With Republicans set to hold a razor-thin majority in the House, any GOP defections could plunge the caucus into chaos. So far no one has emerged as a viable alternative candidate.

Some right-wing members of Congress have seized on that dynamic in an effort to win concessions for specific causes. The so-called “Never Kevin” caucus includes five current Congressmen, each of whom has said he won’t support McCarthy for speaker under any conditions, with several others promising to withhold their votes until certain concessions are made. Representatives in both groups spoke at the AmericaFest conference.

“Kevin McCarthy believes in nothing, nothing except money and power, but he failed to deliver the power as promised,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a “Never Kevin” caucus member, at the conference on Monday. “He believes in nothing, and if we vote for him, neither do we.”

“You cannot demand more responsibility without accountability. From the beginning I have said my hard line is ‘Vacate the chair,’” said Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) in an interview after leaving the stage, referencing her demand that McCarthy reinstate a mechanism for lawmakers to remove the speaker.

Yet despite her appearance alongside such figures at AmericaFest, Hageman has quietly come out in support of McCarthy. “It’s time to move forward with our House majority and not squander it. Kevin has earned this,” Hageman wrote in written comments circulated by McCarthy’s allies to buoy his bid for speaker.

The Congresswoman-elect is likely to be rewarded for her loyalty should McCarthy ultimately emerge victorious. Hageman has previously spoken to her intent to serve both on the natural resources committee and the powerful oversight committee, decisions which primarily fall on the speaker.

But Hageman has so far remained mum on the contentious race for chair of the Republican National Committee.

Three-term RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, once seen as having her chairmanship on lock for another two years, is now facing growing criticism after a dismal GOP midterms showing. She’s found herself an ascendant rival in Harmeet Dhillon, an RNC committeewoman and election law lawyer who’s previously represented former President Donald Trump.

Throughout the AmericaFest conference, speakers repeatedly praised Dhillon and bashed McDaniel. The aspiring chair herself spoke just minutes before Hageman took the stage.

“I’m here to redefine what this party sees as victory: it means winning elections,” Dhillon said. “It’s time for a leadership change at the RNC.”

Hageman — a former RNC committeewoman herself —  has refused to say who she supports in the race for chair. Her representatives did not respond to inquiries seeking clarity on her stance.

A “fighter” who’s not afraid to bash her own side

In her remarks Tuesday, Hageman detailed her stances on key pieces of legislation and policy priorities for the new Congress.

She decried the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill lawmakers are currently rushing to the finish line as empowering “unelected bureaucrats,” and called for legislation to ban foreign governments from owning property in the U.S.

Hageman promised to “dramatically, dramatically cut the budgets” of most federal agencies and said she’s drafting a bill to require Congressional approval of any agency rule which would have a fiscal impact over $100 million.

But beyond such standard GOP positions, the self-described “fighter” also took aim at members of her own party. Asked about ranked-choice voting, a system which lets voters support multiple candidates in order of preference, Hageman said it was a “disaster.” She described Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the longtime Republican who’s defended the policy, as “a Democrat,” and said of her former rival: “Nobody likes Liz Cheney.”

One thing left untouched in Hageman’s remarks was lawmakers’ proposed prosecution of Trump. Among the charges they detailed was a conspiracy involving Trump’s effort to promote fraudulent electors in contested states, an effort in which Bowyer himself was involved. He served as a fake elector in Arizona, and individuals tied to that effort are reportedly under federal investigation; Hageman’s team didn’t response to a request for comment on Bowyer’s involvement.

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