Members of Kentucky’s federal delegation weigh in on GOP leadership election

Republican congressmen from Kentucky are confident that their caucus will be able to work together to solve the big issues facing the country while the struggle over leadership continues.

The Kentucky Chamber sat down with members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation Tuesday afternoon, before Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin announced he would run for the caucus’ top spot Tuesday evening.

Before that announcement, Kentucky Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, told the Chamber this is his first time experiencing a change in leadership but he believed the caucus was looking at all the right options.

“Right now, everyone is looking to Paul Ryan. He’s got credibility, he’s a conservative, he ran a national campaign, plus he is just a great guy and has a lot of character. But people look to him as a leader,” Guthrie said adding that if Ryan was not running there was a possibility that a member of Congress who is not running for re-election could take the post in the interim while the caucus sorted out their differences (at :30 in the video).

On those differences, Guthrie said he believes all members of the caucus want the same things in terms of moving the country forward.

“There are 247 members of the caucus, there’s well over 200 that feel like we need to go tackle big issues and work together. There’s another group that wants to do it as well, we just have different views on tactics. And so the question is are we going to be able to all come together to get 218 [votes]. My hope is that we can get all 247 but it is hard to get 247 people to agree on anything,” Guthrie said. “Once you agree on the end goal, I think hopefully and certainly we can agree on how to get there.”

Watch the interview segment with Guthrie below:

As for how the leadership election will impact the big issues currently on the table in Congress including deadlines for a budget, the Highway Trust Fund and the debt ceiling, Kentucky Congressman and U.S. House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers told the Chamber he believes the caucus is focused on finding solutions in the midst of the leadership election.

“That’s a really good question and in fact I just left a meeting with all of the chairmen of the various committees in the House with Majority Leader McCarthy and that is one of the things we talked about. How are we going to manage these really really difficult things at a time when we are leaderless, more or less,” Rogers said. “We will find a way to do it. And it may not be pretty, it could be ugly even but we will find a way. That’s the way this place operates.”

Rogers also noted that Congress frequently experiences power struggles like this one, even when it is not in a leadership election.

“Plus you’ve got 435 people who think they ought to be president. Well, 434,” Rogers joked in the interview below.

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Hopkinsville said he does not have any fears that the leadership election will interfere with the caucus addressing any of the big issues as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who decided not to run for the speakership, is still the one setting the agenda.

“I don’t really think we will skip a beat on that. We are going to have to have Democratic votes to pass some things that we need to keep the government operating but I think there is a commitment to do that and I don’t expect that there will be a government shutdown,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield continued by explaining the additional issues facing Congress and the country including the growing national debt and more that he feels need to be tackled but said he is not worried about the leadership election stopping them from addressing the issues.

“Honestly, I am not concerned about it. There’s always a distraction in Congress. There is always some issue. And that is what the institution is about,” Whitfield said. “It has been a little bit of a distraction because we thought we were going to select a speaker and Kevin McCarthy stepped down so now we have got to find someone else but the majority leader is still setting the agenda, working with the speaker’s office and the whip’s office. So I don’t expect that there is going to be any major impediment to addressing these issues.”

Interviews with each of the congressmen on the big issues and deadlines discussed in this post and other topics will be up on Bottom Line in the coming weeks.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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