5 House Republicans to Watch in 2014

From lawmakers eager for the speakership to those coveting the RSC’s top post, here are the conservatives likely to be maneuvering this year.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) (3rd L) arrive for a news conference at the U.S. Capitol August 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on an agreement to extend the federal debt limit and enact spending cuts. 
National Journal
Tim Alberta
Jan. 2, 2014, 12:59 a.m.

The second ses­sion of the 113th Con­gress is nearly upon us, and with 2014 be­ing an elec­tion year, polit­ic­al junkies can ex­pect the ac­tion on Cap­it­ol Hill to cen­ter around per­son­al­it­ies rather than policies. In the months ahead, Re­pub­lic­ans in the House ma­jor­ity will be­gin man­euv­er­ing them­selves in­to op­tim­al po­s­i­tion not only for their own reelec­tion bids but for big­ger roles in the House GOP ““ per­haps even a lead­er­ship post in the 114th Con­gress.

With that in mind, here are five House Re­pub­lic­ans to keep an eye on in 2014:

ERIC CAN­TOR

The ma­jor­ity lead­er has of­ten avoided the spot­light while work­ing hard be­hind the scenes on mem­ber-ser­vice ini­ti­at­ives meant to se­cure the trust of rank-and-file Re­pub­lic­ans. The strategy makes sense: Can­tor wants to main­tain his stand­ing as a loy­al lieu­ten­ant to Speak­er John Boehner while en­sur­ing that he keeps his place in line if, in fact, Boehner de­cides to step down be­fore 2015. Can­tor has long been viewed as heir ap­par­ent to the speak­er­ship. But with oth­er House Re­pub­lic­ans, es­pe­cially Paul Ry­an, emer­ging as po­ten­tial suc­cessors to Boehner, Can­tor may feel some ur­gency to as­sert him­self this year ““both in front of the cam­er­as and be­hind closed doors.

PAUL RY­AN

Ry­an, like Can­tor, had labored largely be­hind the scenes dur­ing the first ses­sion of the 113th Con­gress. But now, with a bi­par­tis­an budget agree­ment un­der his belt, Ry­an may be­come the Re­pub­lic­an spokes­per­son in 2014. It would sig­nal for Ry­an a re­turn to cen­ter stage, where he has ex­is­ted dur­ing pre­vi­ous elec­tion cycles (be­cause of his con­tro­ver­sial budgets and cam­paign for the vice pres­id­ency.) Ry­an is term-lim­ited as the Budget Com­mit­tee chair­man and re­cently con­firmed his in­terest in tak­ing over the Ways and Means pan­el. That means Ry­an will likely spend some of 2014 lay­ing the ground­work for tax re­form ef­forts in 2015 and bey­ond. But just as Can­tor will be keep­ing an eye on Boehner, GOP aides ex­pect Ry­an to per­form due di­li­gence and keep his powder dry in the event a lead­er­ship po­s­i­tion ““ per­haps even the top one ““ un­ex­pec­tedly opens up.

STEVE SCAL­ISE

The Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee chair­man has re­ceived largely pos­it­ive re­views from his GOP com­rades for his strategy of “put­ting points on the board” and steer­ing clear of nasty in­terne­cine con­flicts with Boehner’s lead­er­ship team. But Scal­ise also has come un­der fire from some con­ser­vat­ives for re­mov­ing the Her­it­age Found­a­tion from the RSC’s weekly meet­ing and fir­ing the group’s long­time ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or, Paul Tell­er. (Scal­ise said both moves were aimed at restor­ing the RSC’s repu­ta­tion as a “mem­ber-driv­en” or­gan­iz­a­tion.) Scal­ise spared him­self fur­ther cri­ti­cism by op­pos­ing Ry­an’s budget deal, but where he steers the RSC in 2014 could go a long way to­ward de­term­in­ing his fu­ture in Con­gress. Will he fol­low former RSC chair­men Jeb Hensarling and Tom Price and fa­cil­it­ate in­tra-party unity in hopes of se­cur­ing a lead­er­ship po­s­i­tion after his chair­man­ship ex­pires? Or will he fol­low the ex­ample of his pre­de­cessor, Jim Jordan, whose hard­line stances at the RSC ali­en­ated him from the lead­er­ship team while se­cur­ing his stand­ing as a de facto lead­er of the con­ser­vat­ive move­ment on Cap­it­ol Hill?

RAUL LAB­RADOR

Many House Re­pub­lic­ans were op­posed to Ry­an’s budget com­prom­ise but none more vo­cally than Lab­rador. The sopho­more rep­res­ent­at­ive, viewed as a rising star in con­ser­vat­ive circles, called Ry­an’s deal “ter­rible.” Moreover, Lab­rador charged that such a com­prom­ise made him even more “cyn­ic­al” about the GOP’s abil­ity to lever­age its House ma­jor­ity to win con­ser­vat­ive policy gains. Lab­rador left Wash­ing­ton in mid-Decem­ber vis­ibly dis­gus­ted with the tra­ject­ory of the House GOP; wheth­er his vis­cer­al frus­tra­tion sub­sides in the early months of 2014 could re­veal Lab­rador’s in­ten­tions for 2015. Lab­rador is of­ten men­tioned as a pos­sible suc­cessor to Scal­ise at the RSC. With the as­sist­ance of Jordan, his close friend, Lab­rador could use 2014 as a launch­ing pad to rally con­ser­vat­ives around his can­did­acy to chair a more ag­gress­ive RSC. Sep­ar­ately, Lab­rador could use his con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence on the is­sue of im­mig­ra­tion re­form to either buoy or bury any at­tempt by Boehner to be­gin an over­haul of the na­tion’s im­mig­ra­tion laws.

MARLIN STUTZ­MAN

In early dis­cus­sions with aides and law­makers re­gard­ing a suc­cessor to Scal­ise at the RSC, the only name men­tioned more fre­quently than Lab­rador is that of Stutz­man, a 37 year old serving his second full term in Con­gress. Stutz­man, with his Mid­west­ern man­ner­isms and agree­able de­mean­or, has drawn com­par­is­ons to Mike Pence ““ a fel­low Hoo­si­er and former RSC chair­man. Stutz­man is known to have a firm grasp on a wide range of policy is­sues, and col­leagues have taken no­tice of his vo­cal pres­ence ““ not to men­tion, per­fect at­tend­ance ““ at RSC meet­ings. Stutz­man may have hurt his case by vot­ing for Ry­an’s budget deal, which was op­posed by some in­flu­en­tial con­ser­vat­ives in­clud­ing Scal­ise, Jordan, and Lab­rador. But that vote could very well be an­cient his­tory by the time pro­spect­ive RSC can­did­ates in­ter­view for the po­s­i­tion next fall. If Stutz­man is as fix­ated on the RSC gig as every­one as­sumes, he’ll use 2014 to un­der­score his con­ser­vat­ive cre­den­tials ““ while avoid­ing the type of verbal gaffe he made dur­ing the Oc­to­ber shut­down, when he said, “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

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