Following the dramatic upset of Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his primary election, “the mood among the leadership of our conference was almost as if a medical accident had occurred,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said in an interview with Breitbart News. “There was no acknowledgment that something needed to change in Washington, they would like to completely ignore that the voters were sending a message.”
The historic Cantor loss left the Majority Leader position open, but top conservatives like House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and former Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) took a pass.
Late Friday, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) stepped up to the plate for a quixotic, late-entry challenge against McCarthy that is all but certain to fail. But rallying behind Labrador are a collection of GOP lawmakers that have often challenged GOP leadership from the right.
Massie (R-KY) cited a recent incident where Cantor essentially snuck a costly Medicare “doc fix” bill through the House. The bill was passed by voice vote before most rank-and-file members knew what was happening. Cantor had warned the chief opponents of the bill – the House GOP Doctors caucus – what he was planning, but Massie and others had no idea what was about to take place.
For many conservatives, that was one more sign that the process of government in Washington was broken – and that Cantor and McCarthy were part of the problem.
Although Republicans were surprised by Cantor’s loss, Massie believes that the members in House Leadership didn’t get the message.
To ignore that message, he added would be “perilous” for Republicans, which is why he is supporting Labrador.
The Rebel Alliance
For Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Labrador was an easy choice House Majority Leader.
Both elected in 2010, the pair quickly became friends, and Amash even opted to vote for Labrador in 2013 for Speaker of the House instead of Rep. John Boehner (R-OH).
Labrador hadn’t made a decision whether or not to run by Thursday afternoon, as members of Congress gathered in the chamber for their last votes of the week.
According to a source, McCarthy approached several conservative members of Congress on the floor that day and asked for their votes including Labrador.
But while McCarthy was already meeting members face to face, Labrador demurred until most of his colleagues had left town.
After Hensarling, Jordan and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) bowed out of the race, conservatives were left without a standard bearer.
Amash jumped at the chance to back Labrador, shortly after he announced his intentions to run for House Majority Leader on Friday.
To coordinate support, Amash put together a Majority Leader Google spreadsheet that he shared on Twitter.
Amash was joined by Massie, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ). A handful of other members on the spreadsheet were listed as undecided or supporting McCarthy.
Amash was also quick to point out that the House Majority Leader election was a secret ballot, adding that commitments beforehand meant little.
The Tea Party sophomores are now leading the rebellion against the coronation of McCarthy for House Majority Leader.
The fact that there is a fight gives comfort to conservatives, who believe that Congress needs to recognize the message sent by conservatives who defeated Cantor.
For a group that was elected by the same Tea Party wave of opposition in 2010, they believe that a similar surprise can happen inside the House of Representatives.