House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California will be the next majority leader.
As expected, Republicans elected McCarthy to replace ousted Rep. Eric Cantor once he steps down from the post on July 31. McCarthy defeated upstart Rep. Raúl Labrador, a second-term congressman who enjoyed some tea party support.
It was a secret ballot election so the vote tally won’t be announced.
So, what does this mean for Congress?
Probably not much. Cantor and McCarthy each have a unique set of relationships, quirks and constituent demands that affect their leadership styles on the margins. But House Republicans suggest that the two are equally conservative and that those outside Congress won’t notice much of a difference.
“You’ll see a lot of similarities,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). “There’s a difference — one’s a Virginian, one’s a Californian. But I wouldn’t say there’s going to be a major change.”
Cantor and McCarthy have been close allies in Speaker John Boehner’s leadership team since Republicans took the majority in 2011. The duty of the majority leader is to run the House floor and set the schedule, although the Speaker can delegate to him considerable authority on larger strategy.
Cantor was spotted entering the room, backed by an entourage of staffers, before the leadership election began on Thursday.
Immediately after McCarthy was announced the winner, House Republicans moved to nomination speeches and a vote for the next majority whip. The candidates are Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Marlin Stutzman (R-IN). Scalise and Roskam were ahead of Stutzman but it wasn’t obvious who would win. If none of the candidates gets the 117 votes to secure an outright majority, there would immediately be a second ballot between the two front-runners.
The area outside the Capitol Hill room where the election took place reeked of cigarette smoke, which reporters and staffers suspected was the work of Boehner, an avid smoker.
Update: Scalise has been elected the next majority whip.