As the race to replace House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who went down in a surprising primary defeat, looks all but settled in Kevin McCarthy’s favor, the race to succeed McCarthy as House Whip is heating up with three major contenders: Steve Scalise, Peter Roskam, and Marlin Stutzman. With the vote scheduled for tomorrow, the race is tightening.
Congressman Steve Scalise is the likely frontrunner. Representing Louisiana’s First Congressional District, Scalise is head of the very powerful House Republican Study Committee (RSC). The committee’s main function is to promote fiscal and social initiatives in the House through lawmaking and policy studies. While it is independent of the Republican Party, it conducts much of the GOP's research on bills and funding. This position, along with a slight boost from Cantor himself, may help Scalise reach the magical 117 (a majority of the Republican caucus) and the position of whip.
But Scalise, according to Breitbart, is feeling some major behind-the-scenes backlash from former Study Committee staffers:
For staffers used to being largely autonomous under former Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), it was culture shock. “I don't have a lot of respect for Chairman Scalise. He seems to be in this for himself,” the second aide said.
While accusations of using the RSC as a springboard to reach higher leadership could damage Scalise's credibility, he still leads going into tomorrow’s vote.
The other serious contender for majority whip is Peter Roskam, the chief deputy whip from Illinois' Sixth Congressional District. As deputy whip, Roskam was in charge of helping outgoing whip McCarthy count votes and attain support for Republican measures in the House. Roskam, who is running a close second, is attacking Scalise. Roll Call reports:
A source close to Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam, in an emailed memo to CQ Roll Call, said the 90-plus members in the House who have pledged to vote for the Illinois Republican are “rock solid,” while Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise’s numbers are “soft” and “all over the place since Thursday — at 100, 120, over 100, etc. etc." “No one wants a whip who can’t count,” the source continued, “and no one wants a whip who overpromises and under-delivers."
Camp Scalise shot back:
“Congressman Scalise has run and won on a secret ballot campaign before in Congress,” said the aide of Scalise’s successful bid to be RSC chairman. When the results came in, the aide went on, “Scalise’s internals were only two off.”
As the race between the top two gets ugly, Marlin Stutzman of Indiana’s Third Congressional District, seen as the long-shot outsider, could creep up from behind. Stutzman has great potential as the Tea Party favorite and with support from former RSC chair and popular member Jim Jordan. Stutzman also claims to have at least fifty solid votes.
With Stutzman more aligned with the Tea Party, Roskam does have a chance to beat Scalise. As the Huffington Post points out, “With both Scalise and Roskam in the range of 100 votes, Stutzman's role appears to be that of a spoiler.” With Stutzman as a spoiler, Roskam has the opportunity to push for a second vote, and possibly beat Scalise by drawing from Stutzman’s freed vote (though it may be difficult for Roskam, aligned with the establishment, to win the votes of conservative members).
In the end, however, no vote is solid. As with all internal caucus elections, Thursday's ballots will be secret, and no one can truly be trusted. While it looks like Scalise may ward off a second ballot, don't write off Roskam and Stutzman just yet.
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