ABC News' Sherisse Pham reports:
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) maintains that he is the best candidate for House Republican Conference chair, and a few Tea Party Republicans are on board. The Texas Congressman is currently seen as the front-runner for the position.
“People in the conference who know my record support me,” Hensarling said, “The people in the Tea Party – I’m very happy for example Ron Paul is endorsing me for this particular race, as is Mike Pence.”
Hensarling said he is well-known as a devout fiscal conservative, and has a history of taking on his party, most noticeably when he led the charge for earmark reform and opposed the bailout package, moves he said should win him favor with the anti-establishment movement.
"In many respects, I guess I would say I was into Tea Party before there was a Tea Party."
Yet Tea Party icon and founder of the newly formed Tea Party Caucus Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is challenging Hensarling for the leadership post, and her bid has won public support amongst a small – i.e. smaller than Hensarling’s – group of Republicans. Bachmann, along with other Tea Party luminaries, is angling for influence in the new GOP order. Her challenge has given rise to rumors of in-party fighting, but Hensarling said the race with the Minnesota representative won’t dissolve into a messy fight.
“Michele is a good friend and we kind of committed to each other this would be the friendliest race in conference history,” said Hensarling. “Hopefully, it’s living up to its billing. I’m confident that I’m going to win and she very well may be confident she’s going to win, and we’ll see what happens next week.”
Should he win the chair, Hensarling would be one of the few new additions to the GOP leadership, whose current makeup – with presumptive House Speaker John Boehner and incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor – is fairly similar to that of the last session. As a new seat at the table, Hensarling said he would bring strong conservative leadership and a commitment to fiscal sustainability.
“I'm one of the top 2 or 3 or 4 most conservative members in the House of Representatives when it comes to economics. I have a knowledge of budget issues, and I think we're going to spend a lot of time in the next two years talking about these issues,” he said.
If Hensarling becomes House Republican Conference chair, he said Republicans in Congress could rely on his conservative track record. The congressman pointed to his previous actions such as looking for savings when they couldn’t be found, fighting earmarks, and battling the bailout as proof of his qualifications for this job.
“I think if you want to know where someone is going, look where they've been,” he said. “And I think as my conference looks at my record, see where I have been, they'll know where I'm going.”