A week ago, the House Republicans’ four-member leadership team was in place and secure. This week, the dynamic can fairly be characterized as chaotic.
The New York Times, among other news organizations, highlighted the “Draft Gowdy” movement that came together quickly among House Republicans overnight.
House conservatives, fearful that the post-John A. Boehner era of leadership may look more like a modestly renovated old house than a newly built one, have begun to cast about for one of their own to join the upper ranks: the head of the committee that has been ripping into Hillary Rodham Clinton for well over a year.While Representative Kevin McCarthy of California appears to have the momentum to become the next speaker of the House, the race for his current job, majority leader, has been thrown into a bit of chaos, with the only female candidate for the post withdrawing from consideration and an incipient grass-roots effort emerging to persuade Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who has been leading the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email account as secretary of state, to step into the race.
Gowdy was tasked with examining the deadly 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, but his panel has since evolved into a taxpayer-funded anti-Clinton operation – which has led to widespread praise for the South Carolinian among his GOP colleagues.
Indeed, there was quite a bit of chatter overnight that some House Republicans actually hoped to persuade Gowdy to run for Speaker of the House, though as the morning progressed, it seemed more likely that he’ll compete for House Majority Leader.
Gowdy has not yet officially announced whether he’ll pursue any position in the GOP leadership, though some of his closest allies are now pushing his unannounced candidacy with great vigor.
Of course, Gowdy’s plans aren’t the only source of intrigue. With an old adage, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard,” in mind, let’s take stock of how the post-Boehner landscape is taking shape.
Speaker of the House: Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Daniel Webster (Fla.) are both officially seeking the top slot, and all available evidence suggests McCarthy is well positioned to prevail. It would take a very high-profile contender – someone along the likes of Gowdy or Paul Ryan (Wis.) – to derail the current Majority Leader’s promotion.
House Majority Leader: Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) wants to move up a slot, but he’s going to face a spirited race against Tom Price (Ga.), who’s already picked up some key endorsements, including Paul Ryan’s and Jeb Hensarling’s (Texas) backing. House Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) was running for the position, but the only woman in the GOP leadership in either chamber withdrew from consideration last night, lacking support. (Note, Price ran for Conference Chair in the last round and lost to McMorris Rodgers.)
House Majority Whip: Patrick McHenry (N.C.), a top member of Scalise’s whip team, is running, as is Dennis Ross (Fla.). This morning, Pete Sessions (Texas) announced he wants the gig, too.
House Republican Conference Chair: When McMorris Rodgers launched a race for Majority Leader, Luke Messer (Ind.) and Lynn Jenkins (Kan.) said they’d run for conference chair, and Renee Ellmers (N.C.) said she was thinking about it. Now that McMorris Rodgers has ended her bid for a promotion, it’s unclear if she’ll (a) try to hold onto her current job; (b) leave the House leadership team; or (c) try to stay in her current post but will face competition.
A potential wildcard is Peter Roskam (Ill.), who lost to Scalise for Whip last year, but who remains interested in some kind of leadership post. All we know for sure, however, is that the Illinois Republican won’t run for Speaker.
The exact date of the leadership elections has not yet been announced, though it may come as early as this week. Members of the House Freedom Caucus are pushing for delays, hoping to better organize around a right-wing slate.
When the vote does happen, note that it will be by secret ballot.