Roy Blunt, who has served as acting House Majority Leader for the last four months while Tom DeLay struggled with a Texas ethics indictment, is trying to create the appearance he has locked up the job on a permanent basis. But his allies aren’t acting that way.
Yesterday, six Florida House members who back Mr. Blunt called for the leadership election to be moved forward and held before President Bush’s January 31 State of the Union address. The members claim they don’t want the leadership contest to distract attention from Mr. Bush’s speech, but the real reason appears to be nervousness about the potential for Ohio Rep. John Boehner, the other major candidate for Majority Leader, to gain traction in the coming weeks…
Meanwhile, the jockeying for a possible race for Majority Whip, the post that Mr. Blunt would have to vacate should he become Majority Leader, is beginning in earnest. Four potential candidates are being talked about: Reps. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, Eric Cantor of Virginia, Todd Tiahrt of Kansas and Mike Rogers of Michigan. What’s more, an informal consensus is emerging among House Republicans that the Whip’s job, which includes responsibility for making sure GOP members vote with the leadership, should be declared vacant even if Mr. Blunt loses the race for Majority Leader.
“It would be untenable if Blunt lacked the confidence of House Republicans to become their leader and then tried to hang on as whip to gather support for an agenda that was set by the member who had beaten him and that he is likely to often disagree with,” one GOP House member told me. “That may serve Blunt’s interests in staying in leadership but it doesn’t help the interests of all the members who have to seek election this November.”