House GOP Leadership Shuffle: The Contenders

The implosion of Eric Cantor’s majority leader operation left a sudden gap atop the House GOP that a new crop of Republicans are eyeing hungrily. By scheduling a snap election, the current leadership appeared to cement current Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy of California as the front-runner to replace Cantor in leadership elections scheduled for June 19.

But jockeying is expected to continue in the days leading up to balloting, and a McCarthy ascension would trigger a reshuffling of the leadership posts below him.

A new crop of potential leaders is also looking beyond next week, to who could lead in the 114th Congress. Of the members in the mix, all boast strong conservative credentials, with several former heads of the Republican Study Committee eyeing the next rung up the ladder. Others, such as Illinois’ Peter Roskam and Tennessee’s Diane Black, will need to convince the tea party wing that their work with current leaders hasn’t overly compromised their conservative credentials.

However the upcoming election turns out, it’s clear that conservatives are itching to seize a larger share of the party’s leadership.


Rep. Steve Scalise

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Louisiana — 1st District

Residence: Jefferson

Born: Oct. 6, 1965

First Elected: 2008 (3rd full term)

Latest Election: 2012 general (66.63%)

Committees: Energy & Commerce

2013 CQ Vote Studies: Presidential support 9 percent, party unity 97 percent

The current Republican Study Committee chairman, Scalise aggravated some conservatives — including predecessor Jim Jordan of Ohio — after he upset their preferred candidate, Tom Graves of Georgia, to win the position at the start of the 113th Congress. From his perch at the RSC, he’s agitated for leadership to take a more conservative line. Lingering ill will over his Graves upset could hinder his chances in a caucus race, but the relative dearth of Southerners in current House GOP leadership could be a selling point. He plans to seek the majority whip position if current Whip Kevin McCarthy is named majority leader.

After the party lost seats in the 2012 elections, Scalise worked to reduce conflict between the RSC and the House’s Republican leadership team. He has also served on the GOP policy and steering committees and was in charge of candidate recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2012 cycle.

Rep. Tom Price

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Georgia — 6th District

Residence: Roswell

Born: Oct. 8, 1954

First Elected: 2004 (5th term)

Latest Election: 2012 general (64.51%)

Committees: Budget; Education & the Workforce; Ways & Means

2013 CQ Vote Studies: Presidential support 10 percent; party unity 97 percent

A prominent figure in the House Republican Conference, Price hasn’t held a leadership position since losing to Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, who had the support of Speaker John A. Boehner, for the conference’s No. 4 spot at the start of the 113th Congress. Price was named vice chairman of both the Budget Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. A former head of the RSC and the Republican Policy Committee, Price stays in the center of most heated policy debates from his seat on the Ways and Means Committee.

Price said on June 12 that he will not run for leadership this time around, and is instead focused on succeeding Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin atop the Budget Committee. But, he said, “the encouragement I’ve received from colleagues over these past couple of days has been humbling.”

Rep. Jim Jordan

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Ohio — 4th District

Residence: Urbana

Born: Feb. 17, 1964

First Elected: 2006 (4th term)

Latest Election: 2012 General (58.35%)

Committees: Judiciary; Oversight & Government Reform; Benghazi Attack

2013 CQ Vote Studies: Presidential support 8 percent, party unity 97 percent

Jordan is a conservative favorite, having captained the RSC in the 112th Congress (2011-12), helping solidify the group’s power in the GOP and serving as a frequent thorn in Boehner’s side. Not long after Cantor’s loss, there was a movement afoot in some circles to persuade Jordan to seek to replace him. “All the focus, all the hope in the conservative world now rests with convincing Jim Jordan to make a majority leader run,” a senior GOP aide said. Jordan now sits on the special committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks and is a forceful presence on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling

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Texas — 5th District

Residence: Dallas

Born: May 29, 1957

First Elected: 2002 (6th term)

Latest Election: 2012 general (64.4%)

Committees: Financial Services (chairman)

2013 CQ Vote Studies: Presidential support 12 percent, party unity 98 percent

Hensarling, who declined to run for majority leader after Cantor’s loss, has a good deal of leadership experience already. He’s previously chaired the House Republican Conference and the conservative RSC. And in 2011, he co-chaired the so-called supercommittee charged with agreeing on billions of dollars in deficit reduction (the committee’s inability to do so led to the sequester).

A successful leadership bid by Hensarling could imperil the Export-Import Bank. He has called opposition to it a defining issue for the party, and that position stands the GOP’s arch-conservative wing against a range of programs and policies prized by the business world. He’s also an opponent of government backing for the mortgage market and decried the government bailouts of big banks in 2008. His fiscal outlook is paired with a dedicated social conservatism. “I can come to no other conclusion than that life begins at conception,” he wrote in 2012.

He is a top pick of many conservative members for a future leadership role and would also get support from the large GOP Texas caucus.


Rep. Trey Gowdy

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South Carolina — 4th District

Residence: Spartanburg

Born: Aug. 22, 1964

First Elected: 2010 (2nd term)

Latest Election: 2012 general (64.9%)

Committees: Ethics; Judiciary; Oversight & Government Reform; Benghazi Attack (chairman)

2013 CQ Vote Studies: Presidential support 8 percent, party unity 97 percent

Since he joined Congress in 2011, House conservatives have come to trust Gowdy to voice and fiercely defend their positions. Although Gowdy voted against leadership on items such as a bipartisan fiscal 2014 budget deal and a compromise bill to end the government shutdown, Boehner has tried to keep him close by giving him prime committee positions, including the chairmanship of the special Benghazi panel. Leaders also awarded him with the chairmanship of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, assuring conservatives that their voices would be heard on immigration policy debates.

Gowdy’s lawyerly and steady approach to legislation helped catch leadership’s eye early on. On fiscal matters, he falls on the very conservative end of the spectrum, arguing that lawmakers should cut spending by limiting the government’s duties to only those delineated in the Constitution.

He made his way to the Hill by toppling six-term incumbent Rep. Bob Inglis in a primary runoff.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney

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South Carolina — 5th District

Residence: Indian Land

Born: July 21, 1967

First Elected: 2010 (2nd term)

Latest Election: 2012 general (55.51%)

Committees: Financial Services; Small Business

2013 CQ Vote Studies: Presidential support 9 percent; party unity 95 percent

Mulvaney has a history of insurrection in the House, playing a key role in trying to oust Boehner from the speakership after the January 2013 fiscal cliff deal. “Instead of turning the tide last night, we continued our lazy ride toward inevitable financial ruin,” Mulvaney said after the House approved the fiscal package. Ultimately, he abstained from voting for speaker.

The South Carolinian can be a loud voice arguing with GOP leaders, such as when he criticized their decision earlier this year to pass a Medicare physician pay bill by voice vote when most members were not on the floor.

More recently, he pushed to relaunch the Tea Party Caucus in 2013, but stepped back after current Chairwoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said she would renew her efforts to the cause. Now, Mulvaney has emphasized that his sights are set on running the Republican Study Committee in the next Congress. More recently, he showed a libertarian streak by voting to cut money for federal raids on medical marijuana operations.


Rep. Peter Roskam

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Illinois — 6th District

Residence: Wheaton

Born: Sept. 13, 1961

First Elected: 2006 (4th term)

Latest Election: 2012 general (59.22%)

Committees: Ways & Means; Benghazi Attack

2013 CQ Vote Studies: Presidential support 13 percent; party unity 97 percent

Roskam is close to Boehner and other current leadership members, and insiders say he is well positioned to eventually make a run for speaker. The former trial lawyer is seen as intellectual and thoughtful, but tough. His leadership support may haunt him, though. He joined Boehner, Cantor and 25 other Republicans in supporting an increase in the debt ceiling through March 15, 2015 — a vote that the vast majority of rank-and-file members opposed, including other conservative leadership hopefuls.

Roskam, who is currently chief deputy whip — and the GOP leadership’s self-described “listener in chief” — drafted the “Pledge to America” ahead of the 2010 elections. He spent much of the 112th Congress working with members first elected in that wave. Detractors called that class of new Republicans difficult to manage, but Roskam countered, “The freshman class has taught me that they have come here to do something and not to be somebody.” Though a party loyalist, Roskam’s emphasis on tax overhaul measures gives him a launching point for working with Democrats.

He plans to seek the majority whip slot if its current occupant, Kevin McCarthy of California, is elected majority leader.

Rep. Diane Black

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Tennessee — 6th District

Residence: Gallatin

Born: Jan. 16, 1951

First Elected: 2010 (2nd term)

Latest Election: 2012 general (76.43%)

Committees: Budget; Ways & Means

2013 CQ Vote Studies: Presidential support 9 percent; party unity 98 percent

A dark horse candidate is Tennessee’s Diane Black, who has held several leadership positions since being elected in 2010 and sits on the Republican Policy Committee. She also won a high-profile spot on last year’s bicameral budget conference committee.

In addition, Black is developing her base-building skills by recruiting, campaigning and fundraising for a handful of female Republican candidates, which she could parlay into support if she chooses to run for an official leadership position.

Seen as an intelligent and able messenger, she often joins GOP leadership at press events to speak at the microphones. Since her freshman-term stint leading the National Republican Congressional Committee’s communications efforts, Black’s messaging skills have won support from colleagues and the public. She has a history of strong socially conservative stances in the state legislature and in bills she’s sponsored in the House, as well as a tendency to press for clear, specific and straightforward answers in hearings. Her policy interests range across health care, taxes and spending, all of which she addresses from the Ways and Means and Budget committees.

Black’s most recent legislative efforts include a bill regarding verifying incomes for those seeking health care subsidies, and legislation to end tariffs on certain electronic learning devices used in schools and homes. Neither bill has been marked up yet.

Emily Ethridge, Carolyn Phenicie, Chris Wright and the CQ Members Team contributed to this report.