The unprecedented ouster of the second-most powerful Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives means a sudden shakeup of the party’s leadership. The No 2. leadership position, which Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., will be vacating within weeks, has two reported favorites: a conservative Texan and the relatively more moderate No. 3 man from California, the majority whip.
The GOP caucus is meeting at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday, and Cantor is reported to be resigning, effective July 31, after his totally unexpected loss to newcomer David Brat in Virginia's 7th Congressional District near Richmond. Until Tuesday night, Cantor had been considered the likely successor to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Now everything is up for grabs.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has been angling for a promotion for a while now, and while it is unclear if he would have opposed his friend Cantor, many news sources are already announcing his unofficial campaign. Politico cites GOP sources as saying McCarthy “is all but certain to run for the majority leader post,” but his own office has not commented.
McCarthy’s likely rival, Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, said, “I am humbled by the many people who have approached me about serving our Republican Conference in a different capacity in the future … and I am prayerfully considering the best way I can serve in those efforts,” in a statement reported by the Washington Post. Last year Hensarling became chairman of the Financial Services (i.e. Banking) Committee, "a perch that comes with lots of attention from deep-pocket donors," according to Dallas Daily, which would be useful when a politician is playing the "game of thrones."
Another Texan jumped into the race for majority leader: Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of Rules Committee. According to National Journal, Sessions has the ability to call in some favors because he "raised money for Republican candidates across the country and oversaw the Tea Party wave of 2010."
While they are the early frontrunners, Hensarling and McCarthy aren't the only two with plans to make Cantor's loss their own political gains.
Currently, the top Republican positions in the House are held by Boehner; Cantor; McCarthy; Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., as chairwoman of the Republican Conference; Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., as Republican policy chairman; and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., as chairman of Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. In a “post-Cantor,” and possibly “post-Boehner” Congress, some these leaders may all try to move up, although Lankford has already stated that he is running for a U.S. Senate seat.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, released by WikiLeaks in 2009, the majority leader is responsible for encouraging party unity by “working to minimize internal factional disagreements that may undermine the majority party’s ability to govern the House.”
Under this definition, it might seem unlikely for a Tea Party militant to win a serious leadership position. Party leaders, normally elected every two years, are voted on by a secret ballot and "the majority leader is usually an experienced legislator," according to the report.
The Washington Post reports that Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., will run for majority whip to succeed McCarthy. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., will also be running for the whip position, “after receiving a number of calls Tuesday night from conservatives in the party urging him to run,” according to Politico.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was mentioned by WYNC as potentially contending for a leadership position but he apparently told a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter that his “position has not changed. I'm not interested in leadership. ... That's just not been my interest.”
“Cantor’s absence leaves a void that the right wing will push hard to fill,” notes Bloomberg Businessweek, which predicts that the 114th Congress' Republican agenda “will look different and more conservative.”
Everyone is getting into the prediction game, including the political junkies of Twitter:
— Joe Heinzen (@eCSVA) June 11, 2014
How much money on Paul Ryan as new House Majority Leader?
— Chris LeBeau (@cllebeau) June 11, 2014
Time for a new House Majority Leader - it's definitely time for a good Democrat to lead. #GetReady
— Kouri C. Marshall (@KouriCMarshall) June 11, 2014
Time for Congressman @VernBuchanan to take over as the new majority leader.
— Joe Gruters (@JoeGruters) June 11, 2014
Boehner will likely be reelected but there is no way he returns as Speaker, in my opinion. New Speaker, Majority Leader and Whip in 2015.
— Christopher Harris (@cdewayneharris) June 11, 2014