After an interesting week in Washington, D.C. for Congressman Jason Smith, the representative of Southeast and South-central Missouri, Smith held an exclusive phone question and answer session with the Missouri Times covering his election to the House Steering Committee, how Speaker Paul Ryan is handling his new position, and Smith’s new Cape Girardeau-based chief of staff.
The Missouri Times: So, what exactly is the Steering Committee?
Congressman Jason Smith, R-Missouri: The Steering committee is a group of members of Congress, Republican members of Congress, and it used to be referred to as the committee of all committees. It assigns all the different committees of the House. Here the Steering Committee includes all members of the party leadership, Speaker, Floor Leader, Majority Whip… And there’s a freshman representative, and a sophomore representative and regional representatives from 13 different regions. What Speaker [Paul] Ryan wanted is he wanted to empower the conference more. There used to be six A committee chairs, (Budget, Appropriations Ways and Means, etc.) and they were also on the steering committee. Paul proposed a rule to take those chairs off and instead have members at large elected by the entire conference – basically, replacing old chairman spots.
TMT: So are you one of those regional representatives?
Smith: If you go for regional representative, Missouri’s regional rep. comes from Kansas, and our current region in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, and New Mexico. And those regions change every Congress, the Speaker and the leaders redraw those lines. I was elected at large from all 264 [Republican] members of Congress… It’s all about relationships. I’ve been doing that with Republicans and Democrats. Of course this is an independent Republican election, but this is how you’re successful in life.
TMT: That’s not the only news that’s come out of your office. I heard you also have a new chief of staff.
Smith: It’s been a busy week for Team Smith. Eric Bohl is the current Cheif of Staff for Vicky Hartzter, and before that he was her legislative assistant. He wanted to come back to Southeast Missouri because that’s where his wife’s from and he used to work at the Limbaugh Law Firm… I’ve watched Eric since I’ve been in Washington. I know his talent, and I’m pretty excited about it. I hate to lose my former chief but he’s moving on to much better pastures.
TMT: I was going to ask about that.
Smith: Josh will never leave team smith. He’s like a brother. Once you’re on my team, you’re always there.
TMT: How’s Speaker Ryan doing?
Smith: Speaker Ryan is doing an incredible job, he’s offering so much. I have the good fortune to be able to work out with him every morning, so he’s not just a colleague, he’s one of my better friends in Congress. I’ve never seen anyone in any capacity I’ve ever served in, I’ve never seen a better leader. and it’s because he leads from the bottom up… He’s so straight forward, he’s honest, he’s focused on policy, he’s not really into politics. And that’s so important.
TMT: Will Congress be passing a spending bill this year?
Smith: We’ve got to, by Thursday we have to pass appropriations for our fifth, there’s not been an omnibus bill filed yet. There’s been lots of discussion of what’s in it. It’s made me nervous. The important thing for me is does it pass the 70 percent rule? Is there 70 percent good in it, and if there’s not, I can’t pass it.
TMT: Will this be the last funding bill before the elections?
Smith: This funding bill will only go to the end of September. We’ll still be passing another set of appropriations bills before the November elections. Speaker Ryan has made it a priority of regular order in our body to get the appropriations process off the house floor and for speakers to add amendments and argue what they want, instead of just passing one omnibus bill. I think that’s going to be an interesting process throughout the next year.