McCarthy, the House majority whip, has been asking other lawmakers
to support his bid to become House of Representatives majority
leader to succeed Eric Cantor, who is stepping down after his upset
primary election defeat to a little-known challenger from the
populist Tea Party movement. [ID:nL2N0OS0ZB]
Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, who chairs the House Rules
Committee, dropped out of the race to replace Cantor on Thursday
evening, saying that to continue running "would have created
unnecessary and painful division within our party."
Sessions' statement came after several lawmakers told reporters they
thought McCarthy had the edge in the party's June 19 election for
the No. 2 post in the House. House Financial Services Committee
Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas opted out of the running earlier on
Thursday. [ID:L2N0OT0TL]McCarthy, the No. 3 ranking House
Republican, who is in charge of lining up support for legislation,
grabbed early momentum by picking up some endorsements. One was from
Cantor, who will serve out the rest of his congressional term
through the end of the year.
Representative Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, who attended a meeting
of Republicans from Southern states that was addressed by McCarthy
and Sessions on Thursday morning, said he would back McCarthy
because of his leadership experience, even though he believes a
Southern Republican should hold one of the party's top House
"I just think that Kevin will do a great job as a leader. Heís kind
of battle-tested, being in that whip's position and thatís what itís
going to take to get us through. Heís a good guy," Westmoreland told
Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole, also a McCarthy supporter, said
the Californian was personally popular. "He tends to be a unifier
not a divider," Cole said.
Both McCarthy and Sessions are seen as mainstream conservatives and
allies of House Speaker John Boehner, leading to some grumbling from
the party's right flank that leaders were moving too quickly to keep
one of their candidates from running an effective campaign.
"We donít have the lineup of conservative, rule-of-law candidates in
place. So weíre asking for a delay in this vote, so that thereís
time for the conference to come to its senses and evaluate all the
opportunities we have going forward,Ē said Representative Steve King
of Iowa, a conservative Tea Party favorite.
King also said he hoped Representative Jim Jordan from Ohio, also
popular with the Tea Party, would get in the race.
King and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, another Tea
Party favorite, both said they would not back any candidate who
favored a path to citizenship - which they term "amnesty" - for
immigrants who entered the United States illegally.
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In Cantor's Virginia district campaign, Tea Party challenger David
Brat, a political novice and economics professor, had portrayed
Cantor as too soft on immigration reform and succeeded in toppling
the House majority leader.
Idaho Representative Raul Labrador, prominent among conservatives
willing to defy the Republican establishment, was getting support
from other members to jump into the majority leader race, according
to a source familiar with his thinking.
Labrador abandoned bipartisan House talks on immigration last year
and has said he does not think this year is the right time for the
The election represents a high-wire act for Boehner. He would like
to see a new team installed that will help him move legislation and
avoid fiscal crises, but one that also will make Tea Party
supporters in Congress feel they have a voice.
If House conservatives remain angry over the fight to fill Cantor's
post, they could challenge Boehner's bid to remain as speaker later
The Ohio Republican survived a challenge from the right after the
2012 congressional elections.
Boehner said he could work with "whoever gets elected."
A lineup of contenders also emerged for McCarthy's post as majority
whip. Lawmakers said Representatives Marlin Stutzman of Indiana,
Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Peter Roskam of Illinois have all
begun lobbying colleagues for the whip's job.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Annika McGinnis and Julia
Edwards; Writing by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Caren Bohan, Grant
McCool and Peter Cooney)
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