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New House Whips Work in Tag Team

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Majority Whip-designate Kevin McCarthy (right) and his hand-picked deputy, Peter Roskam, have never served in the majority in the House, which the two men see as a benefit to their leadership in the 112th Congress.

Majority Whip-designate Kevin McCarthy has received a range of suggestions from his vote-counting predecessors, but there was one tip each of them repeated and he has taken it to heart.

“You need to know your count and you don’t share your count,” the California Republican said.

McCarthy served for two years as deputy to Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who will step up to Majority Leader in the next Congress.

McCarthy began to build his Whip team last week with the selection of Rep. Peter Roskam to serve as Chief Deputy Whip.

McCarthy said the Illinois Republican was the obvious choice; the two have worked closely together since they arrived in the House as a part of the small Republican class of 2006.

“One thing I found with the relationship with Cantor and I ... I think there can between no sunlight between the two of us,” he said in an interview with Roll Call. “Going into the majority ... you can’t have that time to say, ‘Oh, we are going to build this relationship as we go.’ You already have to have one, so you start right from the bat.”

While McCarthy has been a front man for several Republican projects during his tenure in the House, Roskam has worked largely behind the scenes.

Most recently, McCarthy led the America Speaking Out project to craft the GOP agenda. That effort resulted in the release of the “Pledge to America,” which party leaders unveiled in September. Roskam was vice chairman on that project.

During the interview with Roll Call last week, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) stopped by to congratulate both men and said of Roskam, “I’m glad we have a guy from Chicago that knows how to get votes by any means necessary.”

McCarthy and Roskam share backgrounds as state legislators and have reputations for being focused and creative forces within the House Republican Conference, and neither has ever served in the majority.

“There’s benefits to that,” Roskam said. “We also need to be listening to a lot of folks on what the majority is like, the level of scrutiny and all those sorts of things that come with it.”

Roskam, who won a tight race in 2006, said he and McCarthy are in a position to drive a conservative agenda that appeals to more than the Republican base.

“I think there is an opportunity to move a conservative agenda through the House in ways that is sort of an invitation for people to come alongside — it’s not about donkeys and elephants for a lot of Americans,” he said.

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