They said it wasn’t a meeting about leadership races.
At 9 p.m. Tuesday night, between 30 and 40 members of the House Republican class of 2010 met in the drafty Ways and Means Committee room in the Longworth House Office Building for roughly an hour. And while leadership races weren’t the main topic of the discussion, one can’t help but wonder how such a meeting will affect the bids of 2010 members Raúl R. Labrador to be majority leader and Marlin Stutzman to be majority whip — both of whom were present for the meeting.
Over offerings of cheese, hummus and craisins, members said they discussed how the 2010 tea party wave could reassert the dominance it had when lawmakers first came to Washington — and a meeting agenda obtained by CQ Roll Call seemed to back that up.
At the top of that agenda, a question is posed in a large font: “Will anyone remember the class of 2010?”
The agenda goes on to discuss strategies for improving communication within the 2010 class, including conducting a monthly meeting and potentially starting a political action committee to help 2010 class members.
Indeed, members repeatedly insisted the meeting wasn't about the leadership elections. In fact, as Labrador exited the meeting, he said the gathering was “bigger than one person.”
“All of us came here to make a difference,” he said, correcting himself to say that members were actually “sent here to make a difference."
“And I think regardless of our ideological differences, we all want to feel like we’re relevant here,” the Idaho Republican continued.
According to members leaving the meeting, Labrador made a touching speech about the sacrifices he and others make, about the family moments that members miss, in order to be members of Congress.
And according to the lawmakers present, Labrador said he didn’t want to miss those moments if Congress wasn’t going to accomplish anything.
When CQ Roll Call asked Labrador if that was a theme he would be returning to Wednesday morning, during a forum for all the candidates running for leadership slots, he was brief.
“We’ll see," he said.
While the meeting was supposed to be about the 2010 class coming together, no one seemed to have any illusions that members would be voting in monolithic fashion.
Indeed, as the GOP lawmakers filtered into the room Tuesday night, members seemed more willing to commit to supporting Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana for majority whip over their classmate Stutzman — or for that matter, another candidate, Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Illinois.
However, in a sign that there may be some life still in Labrador's campaign, members were reluctant to state a position on the majority leadership race. As Republican Austin Scott of Georgia, who is publicly supporting Labrador, entered the meeting Tuesday night, he said Labrador's chances were "a lot better than people think they are."
Labrador seemed to agree with that assessment. "That's a good guess," he said.
Still, it was clear 2010 members weren't going to emerge from the meeting united in their support for Labrador or Stutzman — a mildly uncomfortable fact that hung over the gathering, given that its stated purpose was to re-unify the class of 2010 and amp up its influence in the conference.
Members coming out of the meeting said the forum got them thinking about leadership races in the context of the future of their historic class, how having a Majority Leader Labrador or a Majority Whip Stutzman could be useful.
Stutzman and Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., said discussions in the closed-door meeting included a recognition that the 2010 class, as with all factions, is more powerful when it sticks together.
"Pennsylvania is the one delegation that is sticking together. They're discussing who they're gonna vote for," Stutzman said of the state's GOP lawmakers and their approach to the leadership races, which will be decided on Thursday.
And he added that the candidates wanted to talk to them "because now they're working together."
"So that's what we gotta to do as a class, so now leadership's coming to us and saying, 'What do you guys think?'" he said.
When asked directly if that sentiment of unity would translate into 2010 members voting together on Thursday, Reed had a cryptic response.
"Stay tuned," he said, vanishing into his office with Stutzman to further plot a campaign strategy for the next two days.
Before Reed closed to the door behind them, he and Stutzman threw out other names of 2010 lawmakers who were backing Stutzman: Republican Reps. Sean P. Duffy of Wisconsin, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina and Andy Harris of Maryland, to name a few.
But Stutzman will need far more than a few 2010 class members to support him if he's going to make it to a second ballot, which occurs when no one candidate gets a majority of votes needed for a decisive victory. The same goes for Labrador if he's going to shift the fate of the majority leader race.
If the 2010 class isn't successful in placing one of their own in leadership this time, at least some of them cling to the hope that a more formalized club might help in the future — five months down the road from now, for instance.
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