Conservatives Fail to Delay Leadership Votes; McCarthy, Scalise Looking Strong

Thursday’s House leadership race looks to favor the most established candidates.

Rep. Steve Scalise
National Journal
Tim Alberta Sarah Mimms
June 18, 2014, 7:10 a.m.

House con­ser­vat­ives failed Wed­nes­day morn­ing with a last-ditch ef­fort to delay Thursday’s lead­er­ship elec­tions by one week, a vic­tory for well-or­gan­ized can­did­ates like Ma­jor­ity Whip Kev­in Mc­Carthy and Rep. Steve Scal­ise, both of whom are favored to win their re­spect­ive races.

Con­ser­vat­ives have quietly been talk­ing for sev­er­al days about at­tempt­ing to move back Thursday’s elec­tion, say­ing the short turn­around — it will be held just eight days after Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor an­nounced his forth­com­ing resig­na­tion — was not fair to can­did­ates who are not as well-known throughout the con­fer­ence.

Rep. Ted Yoho, a con­ser­vat­ive second-term law­maker, tackled the is­sue head-on Wed­nes­day morn­ing fol­low­ing a sched­uled “can­did­ates for­um,” pro­pos­ing a res­ol­u­tion to push back the elec­tion by one week. Such a delay would have be­nefited Reps. Raul Lab­rador and Marlin Stutz­man, who are un­der­dogs in their re­spect­ive con­tests for ma­jor­ity lead­er and ma­jor­ity whip — in part be­cause they have had little time to or­gan­ize and com­mu­nic­ate with col­leagues across the House GOP.

“Look, if your op­pon­ents’ main strategy is to come in second, then I’m here to help them achieve that goal,” Scal­ise said.

Lead­er­ship put it up for a voice vote, and the res­ol­u­tion failed — but not by a wide mar­gin, ac­cord­ing to its pro­ponents.

“I felt com­fort­able with the way it turned out,” Yoho said after the meet­ing. Asked why he in­tro­duced the res­ol­u­tion, he replied: “Be­cause we’re rush­ing in­to this. This is a his­tor­ic and mo­ment­ous time in our na­tion’s his­tory. And to rush in­to this, we’re not do­ing our due di­li­gence. … I’ve got mem­bers com­ing up to me and say­ing, ‘I don’t know Raul. I don’t know Marlin.’”

He ad­ded: “Mr. Can­tor is go­ing to be here un­til Ju­ly 31. There’s no reas­on to rush in­to this. And I just think it’s wrong.”

The im­pact of the tight turn­around is be­ing felt more acutely in the whip’s race — par­tially be­cause Lab­rador was al­ways go­ing to be a long shot to de­feat Mc­Carthy, but also be­cause the cam­paign to re­place Mc­Carthy is a three-can­did­ate af­fair. With both Scal­ise and Rep. Peter Roskam well-known and well con­nec­ted throughout the con­fer­ence, Stutz­man, hav­ing less than a week to or­gan­ize his cam­paign, has settled on the only strategy he can: to force a second bal­lot.

“Get to the second bal­lot,” Stutz­man told Na­tion­al Journ­al after Wed­nes­day’s for­um. “On the second bal­lot, all bets are off.”

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who is whip­ping votes for Stutz­man, said their team is fo­cused solely on elim­in­at­ing someone — it would have to be Roskam — on the first bal­lot. If suc­cess­ful, only then will their at­ten­tion turn to de­feat­ing Scal­ise head-to-head. “We can multi-task some­times but at this mo­ment we are not [fo­cused on the second bal­lot],” Jordan said.

Scal­ise, whom both rivals’ camps ac­know­ledge as the front-run­ner, told re­port­ers that his team has con­tin­gency plans for a second and even, po­ten­tially, a third bal­lot. “We are talk­ing to people in both camps,” he said, about switch­ing their al­le­gi­ances later in the pro­cess if no can­did­ate gets a ma­jor­ity on the first vote.

“Look, if your op­pon­ents’ main strategy is to come in second, then I’m here to help them achieve that goal,” Scal­ise said.

The can­did­ates for­um offered the five can­did­ates for the two lead­er­ship jobs a chance to make their first and only pitch to the en­tire GOP Con­fer­ence be­fore Thursday af­ter­noon’s vote. But there were no fire­works; in­deed, ac­cord­ing to people in the room, the con­tenders were telling their col­leagues be­hind closed doors al­most ex­actly what they’ve been say­ing in pub­lic.

“It was noth­ing too pro­found,” said Rep. Peter King of New York.

That said, at­tend­ance at the for­um was con­spicu­ously sparse. Many mem­bers were seen fil­ing in­to the meet­ing room, loc­ated in the House base­ment, at least an hour in­to the sched­uled event. Sources in the room said the first peri­od of the meet­ing, ded­ic­ated to a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion with Mc­Carthy and Lab­rador, was at­ten­ded by only 50 or 60 law­makers — the vast ma­jor­ity of whom were Lab­rador sup­port­ers there to voice frus­tra­tions with the cur­rent lead­er­ship team. That so many mem­bers ar­rived only for the por­tion ded­ic­ated to the whip’s race re­flects the be­lief that Mc­Carthy already has the ma­jor­ity lead­er’s post locked down.

The elec­tions will be held in private Thursday af­ter­noon, and the vot­ing is by secret bal­lot. If Mc­Carthy wins the lead­er’s race, as ex­pec­ted, a sub­sequent elec­tion will be held im­me­di­ately there­after to re­place him as whip.

Stutz­man said Wed­nes­day that he has spoken with both Scal­ise and Roskam this week, and while the Hoo­si­er State law­maker in­sisted he’s “run­ning to win,” he didn’t shut the door on cut­ting a deal with either of his com­pet­it­ors. “I’ll talk to any­body,” Stutz­man said.

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