WASHINGTON — S.C. Rep. Tim Scott flew to Washington on Monday a week before most of his future House freshman colleagues as Republicans tapped him to help lead the largest class of new GOP lawmakers in decades.
Scott and three other pending first-term representatives were named to a 22-member transition team that will craft the rules by which the House will operate as of January under a restored Republican majority.
“Our assignment as a team is to transform the way we do business in Washington and make sure we keep the focus on jobs and the economy, and on cutting spending,” Scott told McClatchy from Charleston International Airport as he waited to fly to Washington.
Scott, of North Charleston, was to join the rest of the GOP transition team Monday evening at a meeting in the basement of the U.S. Capitol.
Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican who heads the party’s House transition group, called Scott to tell him he’d been named to the team.
“The diverse mix of experience, backgrounds and regions represented by this group will help to ensure this process brings meaningful reform to how Washington does business,” Walden said.
Scott and Allen West of Florida will be the first black Republican members of Congress since J.C. Watts of Oklahoma retired in 2003.
But the two GOP trailblazers may part paths on whether to join the Congressional Black Caucus, all of whose 41 members are Democrats, including House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of Columbia.
West told Politico, a widely read blog and newspaper on Capitol Hill, that he’s looking forward to joining the influential caucus.
“There is a growing conservative black voice in this country,” West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said.
Scott, though, said he may follow Watts’ lead and decline to join the Congressional Black Caucus.
“My experience has been the whole notion of one nation,” Scott said. “So I really shy away from things that create some kind of boundaries. It highlights the divisions I’ve been pushing forward to erase.”
Scott and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois will be unofficial ambassadors for tea party voters on the transition team and in Congress.
Both men were endorsed by Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, and had enthusiastic tea party followings.
House Republicans are mulling the creation of a leadership post for its largest freshman class since 1939, when 72 new GOP members came to Washington.
The party gained 60 House seats in last week’s elections, with nine races still too close to call.
Scott would be a candidate for a new freshman leadership spot, but he said he’s not interested in becoming a national figure.
Scott said he’s turned down most of about 80 interview requests from major TV networks and newspapers.
“One of my objectives is to help restore the trust of the American people in their elected officials,” Scott said. “That’s going to be a multiyear process. It’s going to require hard work dedication and diligence. For me, that means spending more time in my district than I do in DC. That doesn’t sound to me like a national position.”
Scott will replace the retiring Rep. Henry Brown. Scott emerged from a crowded field in the 1st Congressional District’s House Republican primary in June, then coasted to victory last week in the general election.