The Insider: Russell Vought
Russell Vought runs one of Capitol Hill’s most influential groups—the conservative Republican Study Committee, which counts more than half of the House Republican caucus as members as well as such alumni as Dick Cheney. Vought, whose position as executive director was first held by Ed Fuelner, now head of the Heritage Foundation, worked previously for Senators Dan Coats and Phil Gramm and Representative Jeb Hensarling from Texas, who now is head of the RSC.
• Our family always had an interest in history and political life. It was a natural for me to find a job that paid doing it.
• The RSC is 108 members of Congress who caucus together and pool resources in a way that allows them to push a conservative agenda.
• It allows them to tend to their districts and their committee work but also ensure that what they came here to do is getting done. The RSC provides an important role as the conservative conscience.
• In the minority you can’t kick over every beehive. It has been far more defensive than offensive.
• I’m a conservative first and then a Republican. I believe very strongly that Americans should be able to pursue their own happiness and have freedom to do that, have the freedom to choose prosperity and work toward it. A lot of people talk about prosperity meaning wealth. Prosperity also brings the opportunity to spend more time at church, to be more active, to retire early, to educate your children, to put a new kitchen in your house.
• Generally, I’m a conservative because I believe in freedom. I believe freedom works. I believe if everyone had more of it, we’d see all sorts of benefits across the board. There you have it. I get passionate about freedom.
• Our energy needs as a country need to be thought through, and we need solutions. I don’t think we can kind of leave the discussion without talking about the threat of radical jihadism and whether Congress has the stomach to win that war. I think that would be the foremost challenge facing our country. A close second would be fiscal problems. By 2041, three federal programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—are going to consume all the current resources of the federal government.
• Getting Congress, getting people to focus on this long-term problem is a real challenge. We tend here to think in the here and now.
• In terms of spending, we believe that earmark reform is vital. It’s the gateway drug to higher spending.
• I get to work with the best and the brightest and the energetic members of Congress. I get to be their aide-de-camp in their legislative skirmishes. I get an incredible vantage point for how this place works. What better place to observe history than to do it from the floor of the House?
• What surprised me about the House is how fast things move. In the Senate, you have the opportunity to work on one amendment for two to three weeks.
• If Congress could institutionalize more time for itself to consider big pieces of legislation, that would go a long way toward helping the process.
• Anytime you’re looking at a bill at 2 in the morning as opposed to 10 in the morning, you’re going to lose something.
• I was proud that this year the RSC put forth a tax plan that was picked up by the presidential candidates. We hope that John McCain is President of the United States. It’s no secret that most of our members have disagreed with him in the past, but pretty much to a man or woman our members are supportive of him and are enthusiastic to make sure he wins.
• Blogs have been extremely important for us to get our message out. We work with them closely. We certainly know they’re not always going to agree with us, but we hope at the very least that they can know what we’re doing.
Blogging has done quite a bit of good for the country in terms of having more voices, more analysis, more information at the hands of voters.