Scalise Ahead in Whip’s Race; Roskam, Stutzman Aim to Force Second Ballot

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) holds up a photo of a pelican covered in oil as he questions BP CEO Tony Hayward during a House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on 'The Role Of BP In The Deepwater Horizon Explosion And Oil Spill', in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 17, 2010. Hayward is appearing before members of Congress as the historical and deadly oil spill disaster is nearing two months. 
National Journal
Tim Alberta
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Tim Alberta
June 16, 2014, 3:45 a.m.

In the race to be­come the next House ma­jor­ity whip, the ma­gic num­ber isn’t 117 — it’s 78.

Un­less someone in Thursday’s spe­cial elec­tion wins an out­right ma­jor­ity of the 233 total votes cast — a pro­spect that ap­pears far from cer­tain — 78 is the num­ber of votes that would pre­vent any of the three can­did­ates from fin­ish­ing last on the ini­tial bal­lot, and there­fore guar­an­tee them a place on the second bal­lot. If there is a second round of vot­ing, pit­ting two can­did­ates head-to-head with a sud­den bloc of voters re­leased from sup­port­ing the elim­in­ated can­did­ate, any­thing can hap­pen.

That’s the case be­ing made by sup­port­ers of Rep. Marlin Stutz­man, the In­di­ana rep­res­ent­at­ive whose un­ex­pec­ted and late en­trance in­to the whip’s con­test com­plic­ated the math for every­one in­volved.

Rep. Steve Scal­ise, the Louisi­anan who chairs the power­ful Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee, emerged from the week­end the same way he went in — ahead of the pack. In ad­di­tion to win­ning an en­dorse­ment from GOP Con­fer­ence Chair­wo­man Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers, Scal­ise is pil­ing up sup­port from South­ern law­makers in con­cert with his cam­paign theme: Con­ser­vat­ives, and South­ern­ers, need a voice in lead­er­ship.

Be­hind him is Rep. Peter Roskam, the chief deputy whip from Illinois. He has the sup­port of the GOP’s es­tab­lish­ment wing, but is at­tempt­ing to ex­pand his ap­peal by prom­ising col­leagues that he will “draw on re­la­tion­ships that tran­scend bound­ar­ies and groups,” ac­cord­ing to a let­ter sent Fri­day even­ing. Roskam’s camp claims to have sol­id sup­port from more than 90 mem­bers.

Pulling up the rear is Stutz­man. The 37-year-old one­time farm­er is not ter­ribly well con­nec­ted in the GOP Con­fer­ence. He is part of a tight-knit group of House con­ser­vat­ives — in­clud­ing Reps. Tom Graves, Mick Mul­vaney, and Raul Lab­rador, who is run­ning for ma­jor­ity lead­er — and is us­ing some dis­sat­is­fac­tion with Scal­ise among the con­fer­ence’s right flank to fuel his in­sur­gent can­did­acy. Ac­cord­ing to sources in his camp, the In­di­ana Re­pub­lic­an claimed up­ward of 50 sup­port­ers by Sunday night.

The math hardly adds up: If Scal­ise has more than 100 votes, Roskam more than 90, and Stutz­man more than 50, that’s well over 240 mem­bers — and there are only 233 in the House GOP. Be­cause the whip­ping pro­cess is con­duc­ted al­most ex­clus­ively be­hind closed doors — and the votes will be cast by secret bal­lot — it’s nearly im­possible to de­term­ine which can­did­ate is cook­ing his whip books.

Still, in com­mu­nic­at­ing with all three camps over the week­end, there is broad agree­ment that Scal­ise has more than 100 com­mit­ments, vir­tu­ally guar­an­tee­ing him a spot on the second bal­lot. What’s not clear is wheth­er Scal­ise ac­tu­ally has locked up the 117 votes needed to win out­right, as his sup­port­ers claim he has.

“We’re over the threshold now,” one House Re­pub­lic­an who is whip­ping votes for Scal­ise said Sat­urday. The law­maker asked not to be iden­ti­fied be­cause he’s a per­son­al friend of Roskam’s (a re­mind­er of why Con­gress is so fre­quently com­pared to high school). When pressed for spe­cif­ics, the mem­ber re­fused to provide them, but noted: “My un­der­stand­ing is, we are where we need to be for him to win.”

With both Scal­ise and Roskam in the range of 100 votes, Stutz­man’s role ap­pears to be that of a spoil­er. But his play for the ma­jor­ity whip’s job is real, Stutz­man’s al­lies say, and his path to vic­tory is le­git­im­ate — al­beit dif­fi­cult. While he doesn’t have re­la­tion­ships across the con­fer­ence like his two com­pet­it­ors, Stutz­man does have one key con­stitu­ency in his corner: the biggest class in House Re­pub­lic­an his­tory.

Cer­tainly, not every one of the 87 Re­pub­lic­ans who were rook­ies in the 112th Con­gress will be vot­ing for Stutz­man. But the soft-spoken In­di­anan, who ac­tu­ally won a 2010 spe­cial elec­tion and ar­rived in Wash­ing­ton weeks be­fore his class­mates, could make the whip’s race com­pet­it­ive by chan­nel­ing the col­lect­ive frus­tra­tion felt by that class.

“We should not be­ing hav­ing lead­er­ship elec­tions without a 2010 par­ti­cipant,” said Rep. Mick Mul­vaney, a sopho­more law­maker who, like many of his class­mates, feel their in­flu­ence has not been on par with their size.

“The class of 2010 is look­ing for a can­did­ate,” ad­ded Mul­vaney, who is whip­ping votes for Stutz­man. “And the con­ser­vat­ives are look­ing for a can­did­ate — someone oth­er than Scal­ise. And that’s the path­way to vic­tory for Stutz­man.”

To that point, one Stutz­man ally shared the list of mem­bers who led a week­end con­fer­ence call on Stutz­man’s be­half: Mul­vaney, Sean Duffy, Tom Reed, Andy Har­ris, and Jeff Duncan — all 2010 alumni. (An­oth­er not­able deputy is Rep. Jim Jordan, the in­flu­en­tial con­ser­vat­ive and former RSC chair.)

“Sean Duffy — this is a cen­ter-of-right guy. He’s not a mod­er­ate, but he’s not Tim Huel­skamp, either,” the mem­ber said, al­lud­ing to the ul­tracon­ser­vat­ive con­gress­man from Kan­sas. “The fact that Sean Duffy is work­ing for Stutz­man, and not Scal­ise or Roskam, is the per­fect in­dic­at­or of where Stutz­man’s base is: the class of 2010. And it’s a big, big class.”

But even Stutz­man’s al­lies ad­mit it may be too little, too late. His delay in en­ter­ing the race provided Scal­ise and Roskam a siz­able head start in se­cur­ing com­mit­ments from mem­bers. And while some are open to switch­ing teams — Mul­vaney, for ex­ample, left Scal­ise’s camp for Stutz­man’s — many mem­bers aren’t com­fort­able switch­ing sides once they’ve com­mit­ted.

Of the law­makers who are de-com­mit­ting from one can­did­ate, it’s tough to know where they’re go­ing. While con­ven­tion­al wis­dom held that Stutz­man would have siphoned sup­port ex­clus­ively from Scal­ise, there are ex­amples to the con­trary. Ac­cord­ing to sources, Rep. Steve South­er­land, a ju­ni­or mem­ber of lead­er­ship who ini­tially was whip­ping for Roskam, has switched teams and is now sup­port­ing Stutz­man.

As al­le­gi­ances are ex­changed and new al­li­ances are formed, the cores of the re­spect­ive teams are be­com­ing clear­er. All of the camps are anchored by one or two long­time friends of the re­spect­ive con­gress­men. Ad­di­tion­ally, each of the three can­did­ates have been con­sid­er­ing a “run­ning mate” — that is, someone whom they would name as their chief deputy whip should they be elec­ted. (Roskam cur­rently serves as Mc­Carthy’s chief deputy.)

Over the week­end two of the can­did­ates were said to have chosen a part­ner. Roskam, ac­cord­ing to sources, has un­of­fi­cially tapped Rep. Richard Hud­son as his run­ning mate. Scal­ise was rumored to have se­lec­ted Rep. Aaron Schock to his tick­et, though Scal­ise’s camp em­phas­ized that no de­cision has been made. In both cases, the primary can­did­ate would seem to be search­ing for geo­graph­ic­al and ideo­lo­gic­al bal­ance. Hud­son, from North Car­o­lina, is known to be to Roskam’s right; while Schock, from Illinois, is more mod­er­ate than Scal­ise.

All three can­did­ates for the No. 3 job in House GOP lead­er­ship are ex­pec­ted to re­turn to Cap­it­ol Hill on Monday to con­tin­ue whip­ping votes. They might not have much com­pany, however; the House is out of ses­sion today and the week’s first votes will be cast Tues­day.

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