House Majority Leader Steve Scalise is running for House Majority Leader. He would replace Congressman Kevin McCarthy who is running to be Speaker of the House.
Scalise is telling supporters that he has the votes to be Majority Leader. According to the Washington Post, he made the claims on a conference call last night.
One person close to Scalise said he is now “well past” a simple majority: “We’re over 124, but we’re not slowing down,” that person quoted Scalise as saying. “We’re going to continue growing that number because the race isn’t over.” Another person said Scalise is nearing 150 commitments.
But the race may be far from over.
In the race to fill the majority leader post that could be opened if Rep. Kevin O. McCarthy (R-Calif.) is elevated to speaker, Scalise faces Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee who is considered to be more doctrinaire on fiscal issues than Scalise. He has also faced frustrations from conservative Republicans over the possibility that Boehner’s departure might not prompt the broad leadership shakeup they have sought.
Price had won the early support of two powerful committee chairmen, Jeb Hensarling (Texas) of Financial Services and Paul Ryan (Wisc.) of Ways and Means, but Scalise has garnered public support from key members in recent days, including Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.).
Price and others who oppose a Leader Scalise have some reason to avoid despair: The leadership elections are held by secret ballot, so the commitments Scalise is touting are impossible to actually enforce. And his announcement comes amid new questions about whether the elections should be held Thursday as planned.
Meanwhile, Scalise may not even get a chance to stand for Majority Leader. Speaker John Boehner has set elections for his replacement on October 29th. The elections for Majority Leader and Majority Whip would take place sometime after October 29th, if McCarthy is elected Speaker.
This is terrible news for Scalise. It gives Congressman Tom Price a chance to rally conservative opposition to Scalise. There is a growing sense that merely rearranging the current leadership would not be popular among conservatives and Congressional Republicans. One of the rising conservative stars in Congress, Justin Amash, had an op-ed on CNN.com that argued exactly that.
No one seriously expects Congressman Jason Chaffetz to defeat McCarthy for Speaker. So conservatives would likely take out their opposition to leadership on Scalise. That would be terrible news for Louisiana.
If Scalise fails in his bid to become Majority Leader, one would expect him to run for the Senate in 2016. If that happens, he would have to be considered the clear front runner.