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New Republican Leader Hails from California Farm Country

June 20, 2014
capitol dome sky

The swift Republican election of a new U.S. House leadership team won’t heal the party’s divisions though lawmakers say it does provide insulation from a challenge to Speaker John Boehner after the midterm election.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, who has support from the technology industry and Wall Street, will replace Eric Cantor as House majority leader, a post Cantor agreed to give up after his primary defeat June 10. Republicans endorsed McCarthy yesterday in secret balloting, rejecting a bid by Raul Labrador of Idaho, a Tea Party-backed lawmaker.

McCarthy comes from Bakersfield, a growing farming center at the southern side of California’s Central Valley. Still, he has secured support from big business on both coasts.

The choice of McCarthy, to be succeeded as vote-counting whip by Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, is seen as cementing Boehner’s control through the November election -- and making it harder to unseat him and his new team after that.

"Possession is nine-tenths of the law," John Feehery, a top aide to former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, said in an interview yesterday. "Also, what members want is continuity. There could always be another candidate but unless there’s a gigantic screw-up or if they lose a significant amount of seats, which I don’t see happening, this is going to establish your slate for next year."

Republicans are poised to maintain control of the House in November’s election, as the party tries to gain six Senate seats and take control of the chamber from Democrats.

Establishment Interests

Lawmakers interviewed after yesterday’s election said they don’t think it resolves the criticism by Tea Party members who view House leaders as too beholden to establishment interests.

The Tea Party, the limited-government political movement advocating a reduction in the U.S. national debt, was responsible for Cantor’s loss to economics professor David Brat. The movement’s supporters wanted one of their own in leadership after Cantor leaves his position on July 31.

Disgruntled Tea Party lawmakers will have a chance in coming months to oppose House leadership on legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, replenish the Highway Trust Fund and allocate government spending for the next fiscal year.

Representative Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican aligned with the Tea Party who has opposed Boehner’s speakership in the past, is among those saying they’re disgruntled by Labrador’s loss to McCarthy and aren’t mollified by Scalise’s elevation to House whip. One of the three candidates for the No. 3 post, Marlin Stutzman, was aligned with the Tea Party. Scalise had positioned himself as more of a compromise candidate.

‘Best Shot’

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