In what appears to have been a first-ballot election, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Jefferson) is the new House Majority Whip. That puts Scalise as the #3 highest-ranking member of the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, which would make him the most powerful Louisiana Republican in the history of the body (Bob Livingston was set to become Speaker in 1998 but had to resign beforehand due to allegations of marital infidelity).
Scalise was in a three-way contest with Illinois’ Peter Roskam, who rates as an exceedingly moderate member of the House, and Indiana conservative Marlon Stutzman. Stutzman, who was elected in the Tea Party revolution in 2010, had attacked Scalise from the right based on criticisms of his management of the Republican Study Committee – including his firing of that organization’s executive director Paul Teller over a disagreement about RSC deliberations being leaked to conservative activist groups.
But Stutzman’s votes largely came from the 2010 class, one member of which was former Rep. Jeff Landry. Landry flew up to Washington this week to lobby his old classmates on the Hill on Scalise’s behalf, and he told the Hayride last night he’d locked up a solid number of those congressmen for Scalise on the 2nd ballot if need be.
As it turned out, Landry’s 2nd ballot votes weren’t necessary.
Luckily for Scalise, he didn’t need all the votes of the Louisiana delegation – because he didn’t get them. One member, Charles Boustany, voted for Roskam – with whom he serves on the House Ways and Means Committee. Boustany’s motivation for doing so has been hotly questioned by several staffers and other operatives we talked to.
“He’s in it for himself, that’s it,” one said of Boustany. “This was a pure jealousy deal. All he cares about is his own advancement, and he doesn’t like the fact that somebody else in the delegation who hasn’t been there as long as he has jumped over him.”
Another said Boustany wanted a shot at the chairmanship of Ways and Means, and Scalise’s election to the Whip job forecloses that. “Louisiana wouldn’t get both Whip and Ways and Means,” he said, “so that’s the vote right there.
“What’s funny is that he never had a chance at Ways and Means. Paul Ryan is getting that next year after Dave Camp retires.”
Yesterday even Sen. David Vitter got involved, calling Boustany to plead for unity among the delegation and was reportedly rebuffed.
But while there is bitterness toward Boustany, the overwhelming spirit among Louisiana conservative circles seems to be happiness at the arrival in leadership of one of their own. State GOP chairman Roger Villere…
“Today is an exciting day for Louisiana. Representative Scalise will do a tremendous job representing his district and Louisiana’s interests as the Republican Majority Whip. As the number three person in House leadership, Steve will give Louisiana a seat at the leadership table with real clout and the power to do a great deal of good for Louisiana.
“Steve has proven throughout his time in elected service that he is able to build broad coalitions to advance conservative principles. Those skills will serve him well in his new role as he serves his nation and state proudly.”
Rep. Bill Cassidy…
“Steve is a champion of Louisiana conservative values. He is a good friend and I know he will excel at whatever task he decides to take up next.”
And, er, Rep. Charles Boustany…
“I congratulate my friend and colleague Steve Scalise for his hard-fought win in the race to become the next House Majority Whip. Steve is an excellent choice to unite the Republican Conference and continue our work pursuing a pro-jobs, conservative agenda that will benefit all Americans. I’m proud of my friend and I look forward to working with Steve in his new capacity as House Majority Whip.”
Apparently, it’s a day for olive branches. And it’s a day that an unquestioned conservative has now joined the GOP’s leadership team.
UPDATE: Landry and Scalise plotting strategy earlier today…