WASHINGTON — Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., narrowly hung on Wednesday to his post as the lead Republican on the House Financial Services Committee.
His fate had been in doubt since September, when House Minority Leader John Boehner abruptly yanked Rep. Bachus from negotiations over the bailout bill that allocated $700 billion of funds to the Treasury Department.
The Republicans held steering and conference committee meetings Wednesday. No official vote total was released, but Rep. Boehner's office confirmed that Rep. Bachus will remain the ranking member.
Rep. Bachus had not issued a statement by press time, but earlier in the day he made a plea to members to keep his job.
"The Republican Steering Committee is made up of some of the most forthright and honorable leaders in our conference," he said in a press release. "I trust them to look at my record and make the right decision. I believe that decision will be in my favor."
Sources said he was likely spared because of his likability and the lack of a clear successor, though doubts about his leadership skills are liable to remain.
Years of prolific fundraising for his party and a knack for striking up friendships with colleagues, including key leaders, helped propel Rep. Bachus to the top of the committee dais ahead of former Rep. Richard Baker, a more senior member of the panel, after the 2006 midterm elections.
But in his two years as the ranking Republican, Rep. Bachus has frequently had trouble bringing GOP lawmakers together or devising a strategy to counter Democratic initiatives.
Though no Capitol Hill staff members would speak on the record, several said the first real cracks in Rep. Bachus' stewardship of the committee came in the fall of last year. Members returned from a long weekend to find out that he not only had agreed to support a mortgage reform bill — which many GOP lawmakers opposed — but also had signed on as a cosponsor.
Conservatives who opposed the bill expressed frustration at the time that Rep. Bachus' decision marginalized their negotiating power and boxed many Republicans into supporting the bill.
The measure later passed the House with broad bipartisan support, but some members of the Republican leadership privately scolded Rep. Bachus for his handling of the bill, according to sources.
Rep. Bachus was also outspoken last year about the need for legislation to rein in credit card companies. He even called a round of meetings with top card companies. Many financial services lobbyists said then that they were more concerned with Rep. Bachus than with House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., who appeared focused on other issues.
This year Rep. Bachus drew scorn from top Republicans for his handling of the bailout bill. During a Republican conference meeting in September, he was booed by GOP members after being unable to articulate the chief points of a deal that was in the works with Rep. Frank.
The Alabama Republican also waffled on his support for the bill, at one point promising conservative GOP members that he would vote against the legislation. He later voted for it, though he acknowledged on the House floor that he could lose his committee leadership post as a result.
Observers say one of Rep. Bachus' major liabilities is that he sits opposite Rep. Frank, who is one of the most powerful members of Congress and, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's top lieutenant on financial services issues, has broad running room to dictate policy.