I suspect for most folks away from Capitol Hill, the fight for the #4 slot in the House Republican conference leadership isn’t just an obvious example of inside baseball, it also seems irrelevant.
But I’d argue this dispute, resolved this afternoon, actually matters.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) was elected chairwoman of the House GOP conference on Wednesday, a victory for party leaders over insurgent conservatives.
McMorris Rodgers had received the quiet support of the highest-ranking GOP lawmakers in her closely watched bid for the fourth-ranking slot among House Republicans after Democrats won solid majorities of female voters in last week’s election.
The Washington state Republican, who has served two terms as the conference’s vice chairwoman, defeated Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a favorite of conservatives, in a closed-door election among House Republicans.
As a practical matter, being the chair of the House GOP conference isn’t an especially big deal, but this mattered as part of a larger proxy fight.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the failed vice presidential candidate, knew his caucus’ leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner, was backing McMorris Rodgers for the #4 post – in part because he didn’t want four white guys making up the entirely of the GOP leadership – but Ryan nevertheless threw his support to Rep. Tom Price, a very conservative congressman from Georgia.
In this sense, today’s vote wasn’t just McMorris Rodgers vs. Price; it was a power play that pitted Boehner and the Republican establishment against Paul Ryan and the far-right wing. And as of this afternoon, Boehner won, leaving Ryan looking rather powerless.
I’m beginning to think Paul Ryan isn’t having a great month.
For what it’s worth, this was the only leadership race of interest – Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy will remain in their posts, taking the top three slots in the House Republican leadership.