The skills that Rep. Kevin McCarthy learned during his years as the GOP chief deputy whip are paying off.
With the help of a team of more than a dozen fellow Members, the California Republican has tallied “north of 160” votes for the House Majority Whip position in the 112th Congress as of Thursday evening.
“There has been a great team helping me though, and that’s been a lot of help with getting a lot of the support early,” McCarthy told Roll Call in an interview.
McCarthy, the recruitment chairman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he has secured commitments from about 60 percent of the incoming freshman class.
Before the midterm elections, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) had signaled he was contemplating a run for the No. 3 leadership post, but so far he has not officially announced his intentions for the 112th Congress. Sources within the House Republican Conference have quietly predicted he will remain in his position as chairman.
Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for Sessions, said she expects he will announce his plans as early as Friday.
McCarthy did not directly comment on Sessions’ possible run, but he said it is important to get support for the top three positions nailed down early, even though the GOP leadership elections are not scheduled until Nov. 17. “I think things happen so much faster; you’ve got to be prepared,” McCarthy said.
“I think current members expect [candidates for leadership positions] to call, talk about the race, make decisions,” he added.
McCarthy called Sessions’ work as the NRCC chairman “tremendous” and said the Texan would continue to run a strong committee. “He’ll always keep the aggressiveness going forward,” McCarthy said, adding that he would like to continue to play a supporting role at the campaign committee.
“I told Pete I’ll do anything he needs me to do, and I’d always like to have some role at the NRCC,” he said.
McCarthy said his experience as chief deputy whip under current Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who is the presumptive choice for Majority Leader, would make for a smooth transition into the Majority Whip slot, if he is elected.
He also has strong ties with Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is poised to become the next Speaker.
Boehner tapped McCarthy to lead the Republican agenda project that created the GOP’s “Pledge to America” governing document, which was released in September.
McCarthy said he has not identified a potential chief deputy whip. “I haven’t talked to anyone about it,” he said. “No one has approached me about it.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.