Raul Labrador of Idaho said he would run for the House Majority
Leader job in a special leadership election scheduled for June 19
after Eric Cantor of Virginia announced he was stepping down
following his shock primary election defeat on Tuesday to a Tea
Party movement activist.
Labrador, 46, will vie against Representative Kevin McCarthy, the
third-ranking House Republican, who had emerged as a strong
candidate this week after two more-conservative challengers dropped
out of the race.
Many of the House's younger, more conservative members have vented
frustration with decisions by the current Republican leadership.
Labrador's move gives them one of their own to support. The Idaho
Republican, a former immigration attorney, was first elected in 2010
on a wave of support from the Tea Party, which advocates for
reductions in government spending and taxes and takes establishment
Republicans to task for not being conservative enough.
Labrador said he was "stunned" by Cantor's loss to political novice
and economics professor David Brat, but said it showed that
Americans want change in Washington.
"I want a House Leadership team that reflects the best of our
conference. A leadership team that can bring the Republican
conference together," Labrador said in a statement. "Americans donít
believe their leaders in Washington are listening and now is the
time to change that."
The Puerto Rican-born Labrador, a Mormon, remains an underdog to
McCarthy, who as the House Majority Whip, is well-liked, especially
among mainstream Republicans, and is known for networking and
building relationships with lawmakers.
McCarthy, 49, who represents a district in California's central
valley, is responsible for rounding up votes needed to pass
legislation. While he has largely kept Boehner's agenda on track in
the House, at times he has failed to deliver a majority of the 233
House Republicans on controversial legislation, such as a deal to
end a government shutdown last year and increases in the debt limit.
Boehner's reliance on Democratic votes to pass such measures has
rankled conservatives and they have demanded a stronger voice in
House leadership decisions.
Some lawmakers also view McCarthy as more moderate than Cantor,
hailing from a largely Democratic state. With his district heavily
dependent on immigrant farm labor, McCarthy has supported
immigration reform that grants a path to citizenship for those who
entered the United States illegally.
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Labrador, who has regularly voted against Boehner's agenda, last
year walked out of bipartisan talks on such an immigration plan,
which many conservatives view as amnesty for law-breakers. He has
said Boehner should lose his speaker's gavel if he pursues
immigration reform this year.
Labrador's bid is still a longshot, said Representative Phil Roe, a
conservative Republican from Tennessee, because McCarthy already has
a lot of votes locked up in a campaign that began on the night
Cantor lost his election.
But next Thursday's vote is a secret ballot and some could switch
their allegiances. Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky said
that because the leadership election does not coincide with the
start of a new Congress, there are no committee assignments to be
used as enticements for votes.
Labrador is likely to get some help from outside political groups
that have locked horns with Boehner. In Twitter messages,
FreedomWorks, a group allied with the Tea Party, and Campaign for
Liberty, a group founded by former libertarian congressman Ron Paul,
urged support for Labrador.
If McCarthy defeats Labrador for the majority leader job, a vote
would be held to fill the majority whip post. Vying for that job are
two conservative House Republicans, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and
Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, as well as Peter Roskam, a more moderate
member from Illinois who serves as McCarthy's chief deputy whip.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and David Lawder; Editing by Caren
Bohan and Grant McCool)
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