The race between McMorris Rodgers, above, and Price for conference chairman is the most competitive GOP House leadership contest.
The final push to secure a spot in House GOP leadership begins today, and the results of a few top-of-the-ballot elections promise to have a ripple effect that could shift the results of committee elections still weeks away.
Members have been making their cases for months, but the all-out buttonholing will increase as members return to Capitol Hill this week, and the stakes are high. At a Wednesday morning conference meeting, leadership candidates will address their colleagues in person to lay out their visions.
An afternoon meeting will decide the races, as members will be asked to cast votes on who will lead them in the 113th Congress, a session in which Republicans will have to pivot from a largely losing election season to putting their imprint on the legislative agenda.
The following day, the conservative Republican Study Committee will choose its next leader, an election that could decide whether the group will continue its adversarial relationship with leadership or try to work with Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio. Meanwhile, members will split off by region and class to elect their representatives to the Republican Steering Committee, which in turn will select committee chairmen after Thanksgiving.
And far from each race occurring in a vacuum, the results of each set of elections will certainly affect who wins out in the next.
The most competitive race is for GOP conference chairman. Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington is facing off against Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia.
The close race plays out in a post-election dynamic rife with Republican soul-searching. Several sources stressed the importance of electing a woman to a prominent spot in GOP leadership, citing the gender gap in last week’s election results.
Other members of the conference, however, feel that the election showed that Republicans should elect candidates such as Price, a former Republican Study Committee chairman, who have proved that they will fight, sometimes even against their own leadership, for conservative values.
“Half of them think this is a mandate to put a woman in charge,” a GOP leadership aide said. “The other half think this is a mandate to put a conservative in charge.”
Both candidates have been making their case to their colleagues. Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Indiana Gov.-elect Mike Pence, both former RSC chairmen, sent a letter to members touting Price. The candidate also cut a promotional video posted on RedState.com with noted conservative columnist Erick Erickson’s endorsement. Price, according to spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael, has been focusing on “one-on-one conversations” with members to whip support.
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.