U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, has been chosen to serve on a powerful leadership committee in the House, the first Missourian appointed since U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., was a House representative years ago.
Republican colleagues Thursday elected the 8th District congressman to serve on the Republican Steering Committee, a group of House leaders tasked with choosing committee chairmen and who will serve on the various legislative committees.
The 35-year-old Smith is the second-youngest lawmaker to serve on the committee. Smith is dramatically younger than most House members. The average age of all 246 GOP House members is 57, he noted.
The steering committee has 30 members, including the six chosen Thursday. Key House leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, serve on the committee.
Smith said he was among 11 GOP lawmakers seeking election to the committee. Under new rules implemented by Ryan, committee chairmen were removed from the group to add six at-large members.
Smith said many of his colleagues encouraged him to run for the committee post.
"It's humbling to have your colleagues cast a ballot with your name," Smith said after the secret-ballot election.
"Since taking the oath of office, I have continuously focused on opportunities to better serve Missouri by developing relationships with conservative leaders," he said.
"The trust they have placed in me today to help pick our next generation of committee leaders is a true honor."
Smith insisted it's beneficial for lawmakers to serve on the committee.
"It helps empower your district," he said. "It used to be referred to as the committee of all committees."
Smith said no Missouri lawmaker serves on the Appropriations Committee, making it even more important for him to serve on the committee that will determine the members of that committee.
That could pay dividends in securing needed funding for projects in Southeast Missouri, such as dredging of ports, he explained.
He added committee chairmen play key roles in moving bills through the legislative process.
The congressman said he wants to see all committee chairmen in the GOP-controlled House have "the same core values that I represent."
As a congressman, Smith said it's important to work with all lawmakers.
"I have been building relationships with all of my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats. You have to know who you are working with before you can find common ground," he said.