Republican Senate hopeful Jack Kingston will partner with a pair of Peach State Democrats and some seven dozen other congressional moderates to unveil on Thursday a legislative package of nine reform bills to reduce government waste and inefficiency.
The bipartisan, bicameral caucus was organized by No Labels, the centrist advocacy outfit led by former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman* and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
A coalition spokesman said the new package includes legislation to withhold congressional pay if no budget agreement is reached; reduce by half the travel costs of federal agency employees; and consolidate federal programs the Government Accountability Office has deemed duplicative.
In total, 81 lawmakers, including Reps. Kingston, John Barrow and Sanford Bishop, are supporting the new bills.
Barrow, a conservative Democrat who had previously reached across the aisle over his “no budget, no pay” bill, fits the No Label’s post-partisan profile: a moderate who often flouts his party’s more ideologically-recalcitrant leadership. Even Bishop has at times criticized Democratic leadership.
But the inclusion of Kingston, who entered the Republican Senate contest earlier this year with a pledge to “yield no ground to any … opponents as to who is the most conservative,” is surprising, and could potentially open the candidate to criticism from his GOP rivals.
In fact, all but one of the 37 Republican coalition members are more liberal, some by considerable margins, than Kingston, according to the conservative Heritage Action legislative scorecard. (The Savannah Republican scored an 88, while Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry notched an 89. Only four scored above an 85, and many others registered in the 30s.)
The same rating scheme also considers Kingston’s two colleagues-cum-rivals Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey more conservative. Both have 90-plus ratings.
It’s an unlikely proposition, then, that he could situate himself to the right of these two outspoken conservatives. Instead, by hitching his wagon with the centrists of both parties he’s making a play for moderates (suburban Atlanta voters) as the race’s conservative fixer.
[Full Disclosure: The author formerly served as online communications director for Gov. Huntsman.]
- James Richardson