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Roskam, Still Coy on Leadership Plans, Inserts Himself Into the Fray (Updated)

Roskam talks to reporters during his campaign for House majority whip in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 10:02 p.m. | Rep. Peter Roskam insists this isn't the official start of a leadership campaign of his own amidst the intense jockeying for senior slots in the aftermath of Speaker John A. Boehner's impending resignation.  

But the Illinois Republican, who lost both the whip race and his appointed position as chief deputy whip in the post-Eric Cantor shakeup last summer, appears to want back in the game. Early Saturday, less than 24 hours after Boehner announced he's stepping down at the end of October, Roskam sent a letter to colleagues asking them to support his request for a special conference meeting before members vote for speaker, majority leader or whip — and by day's end, had secured enough support to force one.  

"Before we rush headlong into leadership elections, we need to take time to reflect on what has happened and have a serious discussion about why we're here serving, what we expect of our leaders, and how we plan to accomplish our goals," Roskam wrote. "Healing our divisions and uniting behind the conservative policy solutions the American people deserve will help our members and it will empower the new leaders we select."  

Attached to the email to fellow House Republicans is a letter Roskam penned to Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., asking her to hold the special summit. Roskam is specifically requesting members sign on to the letter to McMorris Rodgers.  

"In this environment, I am not announcing a run for any leadership position because I currently don't believe our Conference and our leadership can be successful until we confront the underlying issues that have lead to this moment," Roskam told members.  

In a statement provided to CQ Roll Call, he reiterated: "This is not about me. This is about understanding the importance of this historic moment — the resignation of a speaker due to internal party divisions — and making sure we empower our conference and leaders to fix the mistakes that got us here."  

But Roskam has been increasingly active in conference politics over the past few months, specifically in regards to holding President Barack Obama's feet to the fire on implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran. He was the first lawmaker to quantify the volume of opposition among the House GOP for the agreement and he was instrumental in forcing leadership to change its strategy for putting members on record in disapproval of the framework.  

Roskam might be playing coy for now, but there's little room for doubt he is looking for a seat at the table. It's not, however, immediately clear what position he would be vying for me in the new leadership dynamic.  

McMorris Rodgers is herself running to be majority leader, anticipating the current No. 2 House Republican, Kevin McCarthy of California, succeeds in his pursuit of the speakership. Incidentally, McMorris Rodgers is going head-to-head with Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., to whom Roskam lost the whip race in 2014. Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., installed by Scalise as chief deputy in 2014 to replace Roskam, is running for whip. Roskam was, of course, McCarthy's chief deputy when McCarthy was whip, but it's not obvious if or how McCarthy could help Roskam now, over a year later, and when McCarthy has his own race to deal with.  

Roskam spokesman Michael Shapiro said they had already secured the 20 percent support on Saturday to force an extended conference session.  

"This is an important chance for all members of the Conference to give candid feedback about the conflicts that have prevented us from performing at the level we are capable of. The Rule requires such a special Conference meeting to be held as soon as practicable, which is an extremely important opportunity to reflect before we rush headlong into leadership elections," he said.  

Roskam also touted the meeting in a statement. "It's clear our members believe that we need a plan, not a person, to heal the fractures within our majority. I'm glad we'll now have a chance for an open dialogue that will help us start to unify behind the conservative solutions the American people deserve."  

McMorris Rodgers' spokesman and deputy chief of staff, Nate Hodson, told CQ Roll Call his boss had already been planning to organize something similar.  

"Before we read about anything in the news this morning, the Chair was working to schedule a meeting for Members to unify the Conference on next steps as she fundamentally believes internal communication is the building block of trust," said Hodson. "We are happy to see a number of Members support a similar effort and look forward to receiving Mr. Roskam's letter."  

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