Politics & Policy

Conservatives Look to Claim Majority Leader’s Post if McCarthy Moves Up

Rep. Tom Price (Alex Wong/Getty)

House Budget Committee chairman Tom Price (R., Ga.) has emerged as the lawmaker most likely to deliver a victory for conservatives looking to inject new blood into the leadership ranks.

If current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) capitalizes on his status as the prohibitive favorite in the race to replace Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), that would create an opening that conservatives hope could be filled by Price. “That’s where the real war is,” one member of the insurgent House Freedom Caucus (HFC) tells National Review.

Of course, the HFC’s clout in supporting Price shouldn’t be overstated; the caucus, to which the Georgia representative doesn’t belong, boasts only about 40 members. Representative Mick Mulvaney (R., S.C.), a key voice in the HFC, admitted Friday that the group may not have the power to install its own members in leadership positions, but warned that it “certainly ha[s] enough mass to influence the outcome.”

Price announced his candidacy formally to colleagues on Monday evening. “The hurdles that inevitably lay ahead will require effective and capable leaders,” he wrote in an email obtained by NR. ”It will require new thinking and a change from the status quo. And it must advance the cause of a smaller, more limited, more accountable government by allowing everyone’s voice to be included.”

#share#The former Republican Study Committee chairman picked up two valuable endorsers on Monday: House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) — who backed him after mulling his own bid for majority leader — and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). “Tom has a proven record of advancing conservative solutions and principles,” Ryan said Monday. “He has the knowledge and skills needed to be an effective Majority Leader, and I’m proud to support him.”

#related#Ryan’s popularity has receded a bit from the 2012 presidential cycle, when any presidential candidate who dared to challenge him plummeted in the polls, but he has remained one of the most respected lawmakers in the House. “If you’ve got to measure the gold standard, that’s a good place to start,” another House Republican says of Ryan. “He has a lot of respect — bright and knowledgeable, and still carries that with him. He’s just voted with leadership a lot.”

To win, Price would have to go through House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and, likely, House Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The chances that he wins? “Thirty-five percent,” says the second Republican.

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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