As the race to replace House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) began Wednesday afternoon, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his allies adopted a motto: Speed kills. Using his deep network of supporters, deputy whips and a paper-based scoring system that dates back to the House leadership races of the 1990s, McCarthy and his team were asserting momentum Wednesday night in the race to become the second-ranking House Republican, hoping to swiftly seal the deal as other contenders were still mulling whether to join the fray.
Late yesterday, Politico ran a piece on the "clamoring" among House Republicans for various leadership posts, now that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is stepping down in the wake of his embarrassing primary defeat. The article said Cantor's loss "is giving conservative House members their best chance at securing a seat at the leadership table in years" (via Jamison Foser).
It's difficult to understand this perspective, even by the standards of the Beltway media. The current crop of House Republican leaders have refused to compromise, rejected bipartisan cooperation, and went along with a plan to shut down the government and hold the debt ceiling hostage (more than once). They've held several dozen pointless votes to repeal "Obamacare," all while reflexively opposing everything President Obama supported.
If the political world is going to accept as a given that none of these House GOP leaders have earned the "conservative" label, we'll all have to take a good, long look at what the word actually means in the 21st century.
Cantor has a 95% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. What's that make him, a centrist?
What I suspect Politico meant was that this is an opportunity for the Republicans' more extreme, anti-establishment, let's-never-raise-the-debt-ceiling-even-if-it-crashes-the-economy wing to have a representative in the House GOP's leadership team. And if so, it's true -- this is a fairly rare chance for a significant shake-up.
A Republican source told Jake Tapper yesterday that House Republicans will likely end up with one or two people "who don't qualify as grown-up." That sounds about right, though the current question is who and how many.
As of this morning, the race to replace Cantor is looking less interesting than expected.
As of now, this will apparently be a two-man race: McCarthy vs. long-time rival Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas). Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) was weighing a bid, but dropped out of consideration this morning.
In a one-on-one contest, it's hard to see how McCarthy loses this one. I'll have more on McCarthy as his ascension draws closer, but for now, this report from Ryan Grim and Ashley Alman is certainly worth your time.
House Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), intends to stay right where she is, as does House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), which means the most competitive contest will be to succeed McCarthy as Majority Whip.
There was some chatter that Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) might seek the gig, but he'll instead run to replace Paul Ryan as Budget Committee chair. Instead, the Whip race will apparently come down to Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), the current chief deputy whip.
This is the contest that will probably offer the most drama. It's also the one to watch if you're wondering which of these cast of characters doesn't "qualify as grown-up."
Stutzman, for example, is perhaps best known for delivering the best quote of the shutdown crisis last fall. When the White House told House Republicans they would get no additional treats for keeping the government's lights on, it was the Indiana Republican who said, "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."
Scalise, meanwhile, is a Dick Cheney admirer who believes President Obama may be trying to create a "dictatorship." The Louisiana Republican is also a big fan of debt-ceiling hostage crises. (There's also an amusing story from 2012 in which Scalise fired a smart, up-and-coming Republican scholar who dared to endorse copyright reform.)
House Republicans will meet a week from today, behind closed doors, to elect the new leadership team.