Leadership Candidates Make Their Cases To House GOP

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With Majority Leader Eric Cantor stepping down after his unexpected primary defeat last week, the candidates for leadership positions are in a mad dash to election day.

Wednesday morning, in advance of the Thursday vote, the candidates for majority leader and majority whip made their cases to House Republicans. 

“I think they all have strengths. They really do and [Majority Whip Kevin] McCarthy (R-CA) understands the policies we put forth, he has a lot of experience. [Rep. Raul] Labrador (R-ID) brings a lot of good commitment and focus to the table,” North Carolina Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger said leaving the Wednesday conference meeting. 

“We all recognize the chief opponent out there is the president and his policies and we’re united on that, I think there is a real consensus that we’ll come out on this as a committed united team to bring forth real policies to create jobs and protect the security of this country,” the North Carolinian said, adding that he believes all candidates have their strengths.

According to lawmakers leaving the meeting the conversation was a mix of process, internal operations, and policy. 

“It was really more okay 'how do we create trust confidence, understanding about how we’re going to proceed on difficult issues?' It’s easy to know how to go forward on the easy issues on the difficult ones, ‘how do we create the trust and confidence, communication to go forward?’” Alabama Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne said, adding he thought the discussion was a healthy one. 

One of the candidates for whip — a slot that will open should current Majority Whip McCarthy meet expectations and beat Labrador for the role of majority leader — Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-LA) left the meeting confidently. 

“We’re in a really good spot,” Scalise, who is facing Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), said.

“If the opponent’s main strategy is to come in second, then I’m here to help them achieve their goal,” he added. 

Speaking after the meeting, Stutzman told reporters that the “process” in recent years has been a frustration to many members. 

“I’m going to work to know exactly what members need in their particular districts, empowering them, and making sure they are serving the people they serve the best of their ability. Looking at this as a puzzle and bring people together. We are a diverse conference,” he said.

The Indiana tea party congressman noted that, while some have been handicapping the whip race as a contest between Scalise and Roskam, Stutzman said “I think we get to a second ballot all bets are off.”

Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, who has expressed frustrations with leadership noted that, while many conventional wisdom has McCarthy winning majority leader, the race will be closer than people realize. 

“I think this [majority leader] race is a lot closer than what people give it credit,”he said “people want to be heard people want to be part of the solution. I’m from the class of 2010, we didn’t come here to twiddle fingers and take accolades, were here to get our country back and that means bold action and means somebody who speaks a vision and builds leadership by coalitions and I haven’t seen that,” Gosar said. 

Texas Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert offered that he would be supporting Labrador because “his position and his promises with regard to making the president do his job is a big part of that” and Scalise for whip.

Labrador described his pitch to members as what he has been saying all week.

“We need change, we need to change the way we do things on the floor and we need to keep rules so conference can actually stay together and know that whether they win or lose on the issues they will be treated fairly by the process,” he said, adding that he thought he was received “very well” by members. 

Labrador said he’s told members that as speaker he will not bring immigration reform up “until [Obama] starts securing the border and does something right now about the crisis that we have at the border with the children.”


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