WASHINGTON – Rep. Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land is campaigning to become chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a large coalition of conservative House members in Congress.
The RSC's goal is to be a conservative influence on economic and social policy within the party.
Mulvaney, running for a third term from South Carolina's 5th District, said he agrees with the RSC's goal of trying to push House Republicans further to the political right.
"That's what I've been trying to do since I got here," Mulvaney said in a recent interview on Capitol Hill.
The chairmanship came open after a recent shakeup in House GOP leadership that saw RSC Chairman Steve Scalise, R-La., elected majority whip. An interim chairman is currently heading the RSC. A new leader will be chosen after the general elections this November.
Mulvaney's RSC campaign signals his ambitions to play a larger role in the debate over the direction of the Republican Party, which on some issues is divided between its pro-business establishment wing, and those inspired by the tea party.
Mulvaney is firmly a member of the anti-establishment wing. He was one of a handful of lawmakers who chose not to vote in last year's election of Rep. John Boehner of Ohio as House speaker, and he has defied leadership on several high-profile votes, including emergency aid for Hurricane Sandy, a deal to end the government shutdown last year and a bipartisan budget agreement.
"There are folks like myself who are disenchanted with the establishment wing of the party," Mulvaney said. "And there's two ways to go about it. You can go off and do your own thing and start your own party or you can try to reform your party from within.
"I think the same discussion is happening in the RSC. Are you better off leaving the RSC and doing your own thing? Or do you get more involved with the RSC and try to get it back to its roots? I would prefer the latter."
Of the 234 Republican members of the House, 174 are members of the RSC. But at least 20 of those lawmakers are leaving Congress after their terms end in January. Electing a new chairman will be handled by the approximately 150 committee members who will remain after January.
Capitol Hill newspapers have labeled Mulvaney the early frontrunner, but the list of other possible candidates is still evolving.
Mulvaney said the RSC may not be for all House Republicans.
"If you're just in the RSC because you want to use the name but you have no interest in actually moving the conference to the right, it's not the place for you," Mulvaney said.
All six South Carolina congressmen are members of the RSC.