Scalise Close to ‘Magic Number’ Needed to Secure the House Republican Whip Post

Despite Stuzman’s bid, Scalise’s allies say he hopes to have the job all wrapped up before lawmakers go home.

National Journal
Billy House and Tim Alberta
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Billy House Tim Alberta
June 12, 2014, 8:02 a.m.

Rep. Steve Scal­ise is close to clinch­ing enough sup­port to sew up the race for ma­jor­ity whip, al­lies of the Louisi­ana Re­pub­lic­an said Thursday, ag­gress­ively dis­miss­ing the im­pact of Rep. Marlin Stuz­man’s en­trance in­to the race hours earli­er.

Stutz­man, a third-term law­maker from In­di­ana, is pop­u­lar in the con­fer­ence and es­pe­cially well-liked by the young con­ser­vat­ives who com­prised the classes of 2010 and 2012. He also en­joys good re­la­tions with power­ful con­ser­vat­ive groups out­side the Cap­it­ol.

Scal­ise was thought to be the fa­vor­ite go­ing head-to-head with Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam, who also has de­clared for the race. But Stutz­man’s sud­den can­did­acy com­plic­ates the math for Scal­ise. Stutz­man has built a sol­id repu­ta­tion in con­ser­vat­ive circles, and could be a more at­tract­ive op­tion to the young­er Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­miit­ee mem­bers than Scal­ise, whose lead­er­ship of the group — some call it a “de­bate so­ci­ety” — has drawn grumbles from some mem­bers look­ing for a more as­sert­ive ap­proach.

Stutz­man, ac­cord­ing to a Re­pub­lic­an source, also will high­light this year’s vote on a flood in­sur­ance — a bill that Scal­ise ad­voc­ated for his Bay­ou con­stitu­ents, but many con­ser­vat­ives op­posed. Scal­ise, for his part, made no apo­lo­gies for the flood in­sur­ance push. And his friends pushed back Thursday on the “de­bate so­ci­ety” ar­gu­ment, point­ing out that Scal­ise’s RSC has con­sist­ently moved le­gis­la­tion to the floor through reg­u­lar or­der.

It’s not clear that Stutz­man can win — odds are, he prob­ably can’t — but if he suc­cess­fully splin­ters the con­ser­vat­ive vote, Roskam could claim the whip’s of­fice with a co­ali­tion of mod­er­ates and es­tab­lish­ment-friendly con­ser­vat­ives.

In­deed, a Roskam aide dis­puted that Scal­ise is close to clinch­ing the post. The win­ner must grab the back­ing of at least a ma­jor­ity of the 233 House Re­pub­lic­ans who will show up to vote in closed-door bal­lot­ing set for Thursday. “The num­bers be­ing floated out there are low,” said Stephanie Kittredge of the amount of sup­port she says is lin­ing up be­hind her own boss. She de­clined to give a num­ber.

Kittredge ac­know­ledged that the ar­gu­ment made by Scal­ise forces that “red states” need to be rep­res­ent­ated on the House lead­er­ship team may be per­suas­ive. But she ar­gued that it was not rel­ev­ant for this job: “The whip’s job is to round up and count votes — and not just south­ern votes.”

Scal­ise and his team are fo­cused on Stutzmam; they are already hit­ting him hard. One ally of the cur­rent RSC chair­man poin­ted out that Stutz­man, who was thought to be in­ter­ested in the job back in 2012, didn’t show up for his in­ter­view with the com­mit­tee’s found­ing mem­bers.

“Steve is close to hit­ting the ma­gic num­ber of votes he’ll need,” the source said, adding that Scal­ise hopes to have the race wrapped up by Thursday even­ing when law­makers leave town for the week­end.

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