Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) has the edge in the race to succeed Kevin McCarthy if and when the House majority whip ascends, as expected, to the position of majority leader.
The secret-ballot election is Thursday and the insurgent candidate, tea party-backed Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), has the backing of some staunch conservatives but likely not enough to win, Republican lawmakers suggested on Wednesday. The two men pleaded their cases in a closed-door forum Wednesday for the coveted No. 2 position.
The whip race is the “one of intrigue,” Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) said. It’s among Scalise, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), the chief deputy whip and upstart conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN).
As of Wednesday morning, Scalise had won the support of key allies of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) as well as some ultraconservative members, signaling a fairly broad appeal that could be his ticket to victory.
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip, told TPM they’re supporting Scalise for whip. Scalise, the chair of the deeply conservative Republican Study Committee, has also won the support of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the No. 3 House Republican.
“I’d rather be us than them,” Scalise told a swarm of reporters Wednesday, referring to Roskam, when TPM asked if he had the votes to win the whip race.
Roskam has expressed confidence that he’ll win the contest, perhaps on the second ballot if neither candidate gets the 117 votes needed to lock it up on the initial ballot, arguing he has the experience to do the job best and to unite the conference.
Scalise scoffed, saying, “If your opponent’s main strategy is to come in second then I’m here to help him.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-TX) offered a motion to delay the vote for majority leader by one week so other candidates could get in the race. It was shot down in a voice vote by a resounding scream of “no.” He said it’s important to him that the leadership team post-Eric Cantor emerges more conservative, saying that of the existing candidates Labrador and Scalise are his picks for majority leader and whip.
“For us to rush into that [election] — I just think it’s wrong,” Yoho told reporters.
Issa said the discussion in Wednesday’s meeting was mostly about procedure and that he didn’t hear any discussion of immigration reform.
“They were talking mostly about criteria for bringing bills to the floor — is it because the Republican conference wants it or is it because it can pass the Senate, those sorts of things,” he said.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said he’s supporting McCarthy and Roskam. He said the conservatives in the conference want the GOP to become more conservative.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a former RSC chair, told TPM he’s backing Stutzman for whip, a sign that Scalise and Stutzman may split some of the hard-right vote.