- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Win or lose, Rep. Raul Labrador’s long-shot bid to become House majority leader has exposed a desire among rank-and-file Republican lawmakers for more input — and more fealty to conservative positions — as GOP leaders set their priorities on Capitol Hill.

The Idaho Republican said Wednesday he was building momentum, even as vote-watchers say he doesn’t stand a chance in trying to deny the leader’s post to Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the current No. 3 House Republican who is seeking a promotion to the No. 2 post of leader.

But his candidacy signals a growing unrest with the status quo in the GOP’s leadership, and even if Mr. Labrador doesn’t pull off a victory, several Republicans said a strong showing in Thursday’s secret ballot vote could set the stage for a shake-up later this year.


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In his pitch to colleagues Wednesday Mr. Labrador said the way the Republicans run the chamber gives staff in leadership offices more influence than it gives to regular lawmakers. He contrasted it with his time serving in the Idaho state legislature, where he said every lawmaker had influence.

“From the very first day, I felt like I was relevant, I mattered, I made a difference,” said Mr. Labrador, who was first elected to Congress in 2010. “I have not felt that way here. And I know that most of you haven’t either.”

Looking to shore up support from the conference’s tea party wing, Mr. McCarthy, too, was stressing his conservative credentials as he spent the day working the phone and meeting with House Republicans, said sources close to him.


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He reminded his colleagues that he was an early supporter of an earmark ban and that he broke with House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican, to vote against the fiscal cliff budget deal with President Obama that raised taxes on wealthy Americans — one of several recent high-profile bills that passed with mostly Democratic support.

Even members supporting Mr. McCarthy say Mr. Labrador’s candidacy has been useful for the conference and could portend new leadership campaigns in the near future, though they also stressed that Mr. Boehner is in no danger of actually losing his own job as speaker.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more out of Labrador,” said Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina. “There are enough people out there who want to have a voice and have some ideas about the direction we want to take — it’s likely we’ll see leadership elections in November.”

At the same time Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican and a supporter of Mr. McCarthy, said he thought the Thursday vote would set the leadership team for the next couple years.

“Because so many people have voted for him and are going to vote for him again, I think everybody has a stake in his success,” he said. “Members can always do what they want to do, but I don’t think they’ll be successful challenges.”

With Mr. McCarthy likely to ascend, the race to replace him in the whip’s job has become the chief battle.

Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Peter Roskam of Illinois, the two leading contenders for the No. 3 slot, have both pitched themselves to colleagues as effective conduits to the party base. Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, who is also in the running, has emphasized his ties to the class of 2010, which saw a slew of staunchly conservative members swept into office.

“All I can tell you is that conservatives have been very concerned that we haven’t had a voice at the leadership table. And this may be a good opportunity to have that voice,” said Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana.

Allies of both Mr. Scalise and Mr. Roskam expressed confidence Wednesday and have put their vote counts at or near 100 members in recent days as both camps spent the day shoring up votes. The race goes to a second ballot if a candidate does not win majority support from the 233-member conference on the first vote.