Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who for months has pushed back against pressure from House conservatives to seek a top leadership position in the next Congress, is reconsidering in light of Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning primary loss Tuesday.
“I am humbled by the many people who have approached me about serving our Republican Conference in a different capacity in the future,” Hensarling said in a statement provided to National Journal. “There are many ways to advance the causes of freedom and free enterprise, and I am prayerfully considering the best way I can serve in those efforts.”According to several senior Republicans, Hensarling, the Financial Services Committee chairman, watched his inbox and cell phone explode Tuesday night with messages encouraging him to run for either speaker or majority leader. Some of the members reaching out were reiterating their support, one source said, but there were plenty of newcomers as well. On Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas attempted to gather his state’s entire Republican delegation to rally them around Hensarling’s prospective candidacy, according to a GOP source.
Meanwhile, Hensarling, who served as Republican Conference chairman in the previous Congress, will meet today with some of his closest allies to game out the logistics of another leadership race. According to one source close to Hensarling, the Texan is being asked to move quickly and announce his campaign for majority leader, thus deterring other Republicans from entering the race and narrowing the campaign to a head-to-head matchup against Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, who is widely expected to seek the promotion. Hensarling’s supporters feel confident that he would defeat McCarthy.
Two of Hensarling’s strongest allies — Reps. Tom Price of Georgia and Jim Jordan of Ohio — are also in the mix for leadership positions. Both are former chairmen of the Republican Study Committee, and have good relationships with the conservative malcontents who have been pushing for a shakeup in the party’s leadership structure. (Another RSC chairman, Steve Scalise, is running for majority whip.)
Sources say Price, who tried and failed to win the position of conference chairman for the 113th Congress, would likely defer to Hensarling if the Texan decides to run. Price is set to succeed Paul Ryan as chairman of the House Budget Committee and seems unlikely to jeopardize that promotion with another leadership bid.
Jordan, meanwhile, has repeatedly and definitively denied any interest in a leadership post. According to a Republican source, Jordan was with a group of influential conservatives Tuesday night when word arrived of Cantor’s loss. Jordan was pushed to reconsider his opposition to a leadership bid, according to the source. Jordan would not shut the door entirely, but the Ohio Republican politely encouraged his company to coalesce around Hensarling.