House Republican leadership didn’t release the vote totals in Thursday’s leadership races to the press or even the Republican rank-and-file in an attempt to present a united front after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s unexpected defeat in the Virginia Republican primary exposed the fault lines between the Tea Party and establishment wings of the conference.
“They didn’t tell us the numbers,” North Carolina representative Richard Hudson, who supported Illinois representative Peter Roskam for whip against eventual winner Steve Scalise of Louisiana, told reporters after the vote. The candidates for majority leader and whip agreed before the vote took place not to release the vote totals, as has been the practice for the last four congresses, according to a Republican aide.
Roskam was the early favorite to replace Kevin McCarthy of California as majority whip, but Scalise outpaced him by mobilizing what a GOP aide described as a “grassroots” voting operation to convince the conference that he was the best choice. “He had, from what I understand, nearly 50 whips working for him,” the aide told National Review Online.
McCarthy won his leadership race, but didn’t have the coattails to deliver the victory to Roskam, who was McCarthy’s chief deputy whip. After the results were in, Roskam moved to have Scalise declared the victor by unanimous consent.
“Everyone always gathers around our entire team and we did this time,” Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions of Texas told NRO. “All the races were unanimous.”
That doesn’t mean everyone was perfectly happy. “I think this was our best shot to change leadership, not November,” Representative Justin Amash told reporters, referring to the regularly-scheduled leadership races that will take place at the end of the year. “Because in November the leadership team has the advantage of handing out committee assignments and chairmanships to win over votes. Right now, those positions are already locked in place, so it’s very difficult for them to persuade members the way they can a few months from now.”
Amash supported Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho for majority leader. “Raul, I’m confident, pulled very good numbers,” he said.
The new leadership team will have a chance to consolidate support, though. “I want them to succeed, and everybody that walked out of that room, I think, wants them to succeed,” Representative Steve King, who tweeted after Cantor’s defeat that he wants a majority leader who “have a record opposing amnesty” told NRO.
“I think all the candidates said they were opposed to amnesty,” King said. ”Now, we just need to get to the point where we all agree on what that means.” The Iowa lawmaker said that several members of the conference emphasized that they want to see bills passed through regular order, as well.
King said that his “sense” was that McCarthy and Scalise both received “a solid majority” of votes. ”That means the conference is unified behind a majority leader and a whip; that’s a good thing,” he said.