The leadership posts awarded to Minnesota's senior Republican congressional delegation will say much about the GOP's priorities as it takes back control of the U.S. House.
If the party is serious about governing, it will reward two respected Minnesota representatives -- Erik Paulsen and John Kline -- with new positions on two powerful committees. Paulsen, just elected to his second term in the west-metro Third Congressional District, seeks a seat on the influential House Ways and Means Committee. Kline, who has represented the south-suburban Second District since 2002, is in line to chair the House Education and Labor Committee.
In contrast to those choices, putting the polarizing, style-over-substance Rep. Michele Bachmann in any kind of leadership position would send exactly the wrong message and would damage Republicans' credibility. Bachmann, just elected to her third term in the state's north-suburban Sixth District, is running for the GOP's No. 4 leadership position in the U.S. House: the GOP Conference Chair.
Bachmann is a legislative lightweight whose priority has been Fox News appearances -- not authoring substantive bills or helping her hard-pressed district. During her time in the Minnesota state Senate, she was known for her antigay histrionics -- not any actual accomplishments. Bachmann is not qualified to hold the influential post that helped launch the careers of other GOP heavy-hitters, including former President Gerald Ford; former Vice President Dick Cheney, and Jack Kemp, Dick Armey and John Boehner. Indiana Rep. Mike Pence is the current House Conference Chair. Duties include crafting the party's message, acting as its spokesperson and running party meetings.
Although this newspaper disagrees with Paulsen and Kline on a number of issues, both have won this page's endorsement in past elections because they are serious, thoughtful lawmakers who have earned their constituents' trust through hard work. Their congressional colleagues, as well as many industry groups, also hold them in high regard.
Paulsen had an impressive freshman term. His district is home to many medical device companies, and he smartly carved out a niche as an industry expert. He's cochair of the Medical Technology Caucus. He helped cut a tax on the industry by half and mastered the eye-glazingly complex regulatory issues it faces. Paulsen has proven himself ready for the prestigious but detail-oriented position he seeks.
Kline also has deep expertise in education and labor issues. He has long given voice to teachers' and parents' concerns about No Child Left Behind, and he understands that changes are needed. Kline is a collegial colleague, and he's demonstrated good sense when it comes to an extreme idea pushed by some newly elected representatives: abolishing the U.S. Department of Education. Kline told the Washington Post recently that it is "sort of a talking point. There will be those who campaigned on that language. I'm not sure they always know what it means.''
Bachmann has specialized in nothing but campaign flame-throwing and falsehoods, the most recent of which is the ridiculous claim that President Obama spent $200 million a day on his trip to India. Her 40-plus appearances on Fox News since the beginning of the year also raise a logistical question: How would she have time for additional House leadership responsibilities? Her time is spent caucusing with Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.
Bachmann's own party leaders -- including Pence, House RepublicanWhip Eric Cantor and likely Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin -- are endorsing her opponent for the Conference Chair position -- Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. They know she's not qualified. That Bachmann thinks she is raises further questions about her judgment.