Montana’s Representative Denny Rehberg, was today named chairman of the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, one of three subcommittees within the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Congressman Rehberg’s approval by Speaker Boehner and the House Republican Steering Committee was unanimous, he has served on the committee since 2005.
The question of Rehberg’s 2012 political intentions remains. Will he be satisfied with his higher profile role in Congress or will he finally decide to run for Senator Jon Tester‘s US Senate seat in 2012?
Rumors have been circulating for months and the Rehberg camp has been relatively silent on the Congressman’s plans for the future. Republican businessman Steve Daines of Bozeman has already announced a challenge to US Senator Jon Tester and many Montanans would prefer to avoid placing Rehberg and Daines in a contested primary. Some speculate Daines would drop out as a courtesy to Rehberg and would instead run for the Rehberg’s US Representative seat, but neither side has confirmed any such plans. Interestingly, Rehberg was also rumored, albeit to a lesser extent, to be considering running for Montana governor. Some Montana Republicans are frustrated with Rehberg, accusing him of actively thwarting the fundraising efforts of Republican candidates for both positions in question and are encouraging him to make a decision. When asked about Rehberg’s Senate prospects in 2012, spokesman Jed Link said “Denny is focused on doing the job the overwhelming majority of Montana voters sent him to Washington to do.”
Personally, I’d like Denny to remain where he is. I’m not a fan of lifelong politicians but since he apparently intends to be one, I think he will have far more power to advance a conservative agenda while chairing a powerful subcommittee than he would as a freshman senator. I think Steve Daines is a likeable candidate but his alignment with Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill is concerning. I’d hate for Hill’s baggage to adversely affect Daines’s viability. According to recent polls, US Congressman Hill currently has better name recognition but that recognition is highly negative. Daines, who is a relatively new face in politics (although he’s been involved on many levels for decades) may be wise to distance himself from the Hill campaign and instead capitalize on the current anti-incumbent/establishment politician wave. The only one who stands to benefit from the alignment is Rick Hill, whose advanced age, health concerns, unimpressive voting record, and tendency to bail in stressful situations makes many apprehensive about electing him to any office let alone crowning him the CEO of an entire state.