Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

With Cantor Expected to Step Down as Majority Leader, Scramble Begins (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cantor’s loss has set off a chain reaction in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:38 p.m. | The leadership shuffle to succeed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has begun, after the Virginia Republican suffered a shocking upset in a primary race Tuesday night. At least two representatives are already in the race to become the second-highest ranking member in the House.

Cantor will tell rank-and-file members his next steps at a 4 p.m. GOP conference meeting in the Capitol, and will address the press in a 4:30 p.m. (watch it live here).

A source told CQ Roll Call that Cantor will announce he’s stepping down from his leadership post on July 31 to give time for a transition to new leadership.

In a morning leadership meeting, Cantor did not tip his hand, according to a source in the room. But the race to succeed him, either in a special leadership election if he vacates the post or in the next Congress, is already well underway.

Already, sources say Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the third ranking Republican in the House, is the most prepared to step in to the position. Exiting a morning meeting, he declined to confirm that he will run. Sources close to him say he has wide support in the conference and is ready to make the move, and he is meeting with allies to discuss the race.

But he’ll field a challenge from Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who has begun calling members to round up support for a bid.

There is an appetite among conservative members for someone else, however, leaving open the opportunity someone more aligned with the Republican Study Committee and the tea party movement. One name sources speculate about is Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and in a statement to CQ Roll Call he left the possibility open.

“I am humbled by the many people who have approached me about serving our Republican Conference in a different capacity in the future,” he said. “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.”

As Hensarling is deciding on his next steps, he is being spurred on by a cabal of conservative members who met for lunch Wednesday afternoon, including Rep. Mick Mulvaney. The South Carolina Republican said Hensarling is his dream candidate for the position because he is conservative and from the South.

“I do think there’s a difference between a red-state Republicans and a blue-state or purple-state Republican. The people you go home to are different, the language that’s used is different,” Mulvaney said.

Adding to that, a group of members from the Texas delegation was set to meet Wednesday afternoon to decide whom they would support. The delegation is the largest Republican bloc in the conference, and if the Lone Star State lawmakers vote together, they can be a formidable force.

When asked whether he would support someone from his home state, Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, said, “I’m always for the Texan.”

Sessions may also run for the majority whip post, if he finds the race against McCarthy futile — and especially if Hensarling enters the fray. But there is already a crowded field shaping up there. A source close to Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam, R-Ill., said he is still planning to seek out the whip slot in the 114th Congress. He had already been rounding up support in recent weeks, calling and meeting with members and donating money to campaigns. Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise, R-La., has made his intention to run for the slot known to colleagues as well.

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said that neither McCarthy, Roskam, Scalise nor Sessions are conservative enough for his taste in a majority leader.

Though some conservative are pining for a red-state Republican to represent them at the leadership table, other moderate and blue-state Republicans said the current leadership team has done an effective job.

Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, said he has not decided on whom to support, but he did say both McCarthy and Roskam are popular, despite coming from Democratic-leaning states.

“They both have a very successful tenure in their positions in leadership and they have a lot of support within the conference generally speaking for the job that they’ve done,” he said.

Other members who seemed comfortable in their current roles just the day before were suddenly eying promotions.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., announced, however, that she would stay put as conference chairwoman.

“After much encouragement from my colleagues, conversations with my family, and many prayers, I have decided to remain Conference Chair at this time,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to continue leading my colleagues and building on our successes to introduce a culture of innovation to Capitol Hill, improve the image of House Republicans, and unite our entire Conference behind conservative solutions that serve people in every corner of America.”

A GOP aide familiar with McMorris Rodgers’ thinking said she had been fielding calls from colleagues asking if she would want to move up to serve as whip or majority leader.

Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., had eyed McMorris Rodgers’ spot if it had been vacated, according to an aide.

Then there’s the question of Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio. Sources speculated that a leadership vacuum might make him more inclined than ever to stay on as speaker next Congress to avoid an all-out chaotic war to succeed him. On the other hand, there is always the chance he could decide to leave after this term.

Kate Ackley, Emma Dumain, Matt Fuller and Ben Weyl contributed to this report.

  • Layla

    McCarthy is a clone of both Boehner and Cantor. We don’t need more of this. We need a new Congress. American families deserve to come first.

  • Layla

    Do NOT donate to the GOP until they have new leadership and DROP AMNESTY. They are being funded by the Main Street Partnership, Soros and the US Chamber. Starve them out.

  • deydey

    Cathy McMorris says “BHOcare” is “here to stay”…

    She definitely Not qualified to be a House leader as one who obviously cannot lead America from the total disaster called BHOcare…

  • Wuthie

    American families come first? What a joke. It will never happen with a Republican Tea Party or Republican leadership of any kind.

    What has to change is the Tax Code and it favors the rich. Republicans are scared sh**less to change that unless it will benefit the rich with more tax breaks and loop holes.

    Layla believes if we change the congress people that will solve everything. It will only change the people. The rich and their lobbyists are going to continue to buy laws they like, and lobby against those they don’t. The People in congress are going to listen to them and accept their money, or that money will go to someone else who will. Very few average or poor people get to talk to their congress person. I get a staff member or boiler plate letters that don’t even answer my questions.

    David Brat is the exception and until it becomes the norm nothing is going to change. For every David Brat there are a thousand Bill Nickerbaugh’s.

    • Layla

      Excuse me? You’re the one who voted for Hope and Change. How’s it working for you? You are responsible for the take down of this country by electing a man who has never successfully run a lemonade stand before taking on the highest office in the land. What did you expect with a Communist in the White House?

      YOU are the reason we are in this mess, you and your ignorance in believing the crap you read at the HUFFPO. Millions have lost jobs, homes and are STILL losing them because of the policies of THIS ADMINISTRATION, THIS CONGRESS. And you just keep reelecting more of the same.

      Stop throwing a pitty party for yourself and EDUCATE YOURSELF. Poor people have been voting Democrat for over 30 years. WHAT HAVE THEY DONE FOR YOU? We need to eliminate the IRS entirely.

      When I call my Congressman, he calls me back and I have never given him a dime. Rep. Ron DeSantis, thank you for restoring my faith in Congress.

      Wuthie, your comments are valid, but if you believe they only apply to ONE SIDE, you are WRONG and NOTHING WILL CHANGE.

      • Wuthie

        Layla… You my friend are the one that needs educate yourself.

        #1 You only PRETEND to know who I voted for.

        #2 You are blaming ME for the take down of this country based on who you THINK I voted voted for. That’s what you far righters do. Make conclusions based on assumptions. You don’t know how to get facts. You don’t believe there is more than one side to a story. The only side is YOUR side. You are always right and anyone that differs needs to get educated.

        That’s the scariest thing about the Tea Party. Their way or the highway. No negotiating. We’re right everyone else is wrong. We are the only ones that know what this country needs. Everyone else is the cause of our breakdown

        #3 Communist in the White House? You are totally off the wall ridiculous with that statement. Learn what a Communist is

        #4 Congress controls the money. THEY are the ones that MAKE the laws. NOT the President.

        What policies has the President made that is costing millions of Americans to lose the homes and jobs. The reports I see are just the opposite. Millions of jobs have been created since Obama has been in office. Housing market is better since he has taken office. Maybe you can tell me where you get your information. I know it’s not from the Wall Street Journal.

        One more thing. What has the Tea Party Republicans done to better the American people? Did shutting down the government help anybody? What do they say? We’d do it again if we had the chance. Good attitude don’t you think?

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