Jockeying already stepping up in House leadership fights

Jockeying already stepping up in House leadership fights
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The final week of the midterm election has seen a flurry of last-minute, behind-the-scenes jockeying in House leadership races, even though it’s unclear which party will control the lower chamber after Election Day.

Chief Deputy Majority Whip Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryOvernight Energy: Solar installations dropped in 2018 | UN report says rising Arctic temperatures 'locked in' | Fiat Chrysler to recall 850K vehicles On The Money: Wells Fargo chief gets grilling | GOP, Pence discuss plan to defeat Dem emergency resolution | House chair sees '50-50' chance of passing Dem budget | Trump faces pressure over Boeing Lawmakers blast Wells Fargo chief over response to scandals MORE (R-N.C.) is expected to seek a promotion in GOP leadership and challenge Conference Chair Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration GOP pushes back on net neutrality bill at testy hearing Hillicon Valley: Dems renew fight over net neutrality | Zuckerberg vows more 'privacy-focused' Facebook | House Dems focus on diversity in Silicon Valley | FBI chief warns of new disinformation campaigns MORE (R-Wash.) for majority whip, the No. 3 post, if Republicans hold the House, multiple GOP sources said.

Normally a backroom operator, McHenry this week publicly announced he had raised $16 million for his colleagues this cycle and held nearly 200 fundraising events.   

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Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyGOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests Pentagon: Trump's 'cost plus 50' plan hasn't been discussed with Europe Liz Cheney: Dems are 'enabling anti-Semitism' MORE (R-Wyo.), former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter, is gearing up for a leadership bid this year, while Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse leaders need to modernize Congress for the sake of America Overnight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide MORE (R-Calif.), Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTrump keeps tight grip on GOP GOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests House Republicans find silver lining in minority MORE (R-La.) and others eyeing top jobs are fanning out across the country to stump for colleagues whose support they’ll need to climb the leadership ladder later this month.

Across the aisle, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) this week issued a surprising demand that’s threatening to derail Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiHouse Dems unveil measure to reject anti-Israel boycotts Freshman Dems to meet with Obama next week The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's intraparty feuds divide Republicans MORE’s return to the Speaker’s Office: A CBC member should be in one of the top two leadership posts in any shake-up of the team, the group said.

Of course, everything hinges on what happens on Tuesday night. And all of the political posturing and maneuvering suggests ambitious lawmakers are trying to put themselves in the strongest position even before the official wheeling and dealing gets underway after Election Day.

“People are announcing early because they feel a big change coming and want to position themselves before the final deals are cut,” a House Democratic lawmaker told The Hill.

Republicans will hold an internal vote on their new leadership team on Nov. 14, just eight days after the election. Democrats will hold their internal leadership election on Nov. 28.

Dems should ‘walk our talk’

Democrats are feeling more and more confident they will seize control of the House after eight years wandering in the political wilderness. But if that happens, the party’s old bulls are angling to occupy the same posts they held the last time Democrats were in power.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Defense: Top Marine warns border deployment could hurt readiness | McSally aims for sexual assault reforms in defense bill | House to vote on measure opposing transgender ban | New warning over F-35 sale to Turkey House Dems unveil measure to reject anti-Israel boycotts House to vote on measure opposing transgender military ban MORE (D-Md.) — who have held a firm grip on power for more than a decade — are expected to run for Speaker and majority leader, respectively.

That has left frustrated rank-and-file members, who have been clamoring for new blood in the party’s entrenched leadership, scrambling to lay down a marker and ensure their voices are heard in the potentially dramatic and hectic leadership battle.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), a key voting bloc in the caucus, began circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter this week calling for one of their own to be in the No. 1 or 2 spot, if Pelosi or Hoyer don’t retain their posts.

“After 229 years as a Congress, we have never had an African American in either of the top two leadership positions. It’s time we walk our talk and provide the transformational change our constituents are calling for,” CBC Chairman Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondBiden's challenge: Satisfying the left GOP lawmaker offers bill letting NCAA athletes profit from their image Exclusive: Biden to run for White House, says Dem lawmaker MORE (D-La.) wrote in the letter.

The letter does not explicitly endorse Rep. Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnDemocrats hurting themselves with handling of Ilhan Omar controversy Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report Former FCC Dem to advise T-Mobile, Sprint on merger MORE (D-S.C.), the assistant leader and No. 3 House Democrat, for the job. Some sources think the CBC is trying to gain leverage in the leadership fight, enabling them to potentially cut a deal with Pelosi for the majority leader post.

Others said Richmond's letter was just the latest twist in a long-running campaign by CBC members to push Clyburn to get more aggressive in his pursuit of a top leadership spot. In recent weeks, the assistant leader has expressed an interest in becoming a “transitional” Speaker, but only if Pelosi is unable to secure the spot. And he’s shown no appetite for challenging Hoyer, after an unsuccessful challenge for the No. 2 seat after the 2010 elections.

“I read that as they’re frustrated with Clyburn. … I think they see this thing happening Tuesday, and the music will stop and they won’t have a chair,” said a former Democratic leadership aide. “When you’re trying to get your guy to move, and you’re like, ‘OK, we’ll just light a fire around you.’”

Clyburn’s office did not respond Friday to a request for comment.

If he runs for whip, the No. 3 spot, Clyburn could face a challenge from Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), who has led the Democrat’s campaign operation for the past two cycles and will be looking for his next move after what’s expected to be a successful election night.

“Sounds like the letter was aimed at Ben Ray Luján,” a Democratic source said. “The CBC feared he was picking up steam for whip and would have blocked Clyburn.”

GOP maneuvering

On the GOP side, things could get just as messy.

While Scalise has said he wouldn’t challenge McCarthy for the Speaker’s gavel, Scalise did not rule out taking on McCarthy for minority leader if Republicans lose the House, according to an interview he gave to Roll Call.

Both men have been barnstorming the country for the past month, raising cash and building chits with vulnerable colleagues as they desperately try to save the GOP majority.

McCarthy has been everywhere — Ohio, Kansas, Nevada, California, Arizona, Missouri — and that was just in the past few days. This week, Scalise campaigned in North Carolina for Republican candidate Mark Harris and Reps. Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddGOP's Tillis comes under pressure for taking on Trump The 23 Republicans who voted against the anti-hate resolution House passes anti-hate measure amid Dem tensions MORE, Richard HudsonRichard Lane HudsonDon’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall Assault weapons ban push tests Dem support House Dems make gun control action an early priority MORE and George HoldingGeorge Edward Bell HoldingKoch-backed group pushes for new limits on Trump's tariff authority House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 Election Day: An hour-by-hour viewer’s guide MORE; GOP hopeful Denver Riggleman in Virginia; Rep. Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority 10 things we learned from the midterms New Jersey New Members 2019 MORE in New Jersey; Rep. John FasoJohn James FasoThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority GOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads Tax law failed to save GOP majority MORE in New York; and Rep. Andy BarrGarland (Andy) Hale BarrKentucky radio host: Schumer recruit can't beat McConnell On The Money: Wells Fargo chief gets grilling | GOP, Pence discuss plan to defeat Dem emergency resolution | House chair sees '50-50' chance of passing Dem budget | Trump faces pressure over Boeing Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds MORE in Kentucky.

A Cheney-Scalise alliance?

Cheney joined Scalise on the campaign trail this week, which suggests an interesting political alliance between the majority whip, Scalise’s right-hand man McHenry and the former vice president’s daughter.

Cheney has told colleagues she will run for GOP conference chair regardless of whether Republicans are in the majority or minority, sources said. That could pit her against McMorris Rodgers, who is expected to run for GOP whip in the majority but could seek to stay in the leadership role she’s held for the past six years if Republicans find themselves in the minority.

Scalise and McMorris Rodgers have clashed in the past: She briefly challenged him for the majority leader job after Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner says it's Democrats' turn for a Tea Party movement House Republicans find silver lining in minority Alaskan becomes longest serving Republican in House history MORE’s resignation in 2015, though she dropped out of the race after support failed to materialize.

“I never got the sense [McMorris Rodgers] meshed well with the rest of the leadership team,” a GOP lawmaker told The Hill on Friday.

But another GOP source said the anonymous lawmaker has probably never been part of a team. And the source argued that Cheney, a freshman lawmaker, is hardly ready for prime time, pointing to her abandoned 2014 primary challenge against Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziProgressives seek defense freeze in budget talks Five takeaways from Trump's budget Trump releases budget calling for 5 percent cuts in domestic spending MORE (R-Wyo.) that had critics labeling her a carpetbagger.

“It's not the first time Cheney has gotten ahead of herself,” the GOP source said. “She may be ready for a role in the future, but she's certainly not yet.”

Stumping with Scalise in the coastal town of Toms River, N.J., Cheney dodged questions about whether she was running for leadership and said she was completely focused on the midterms.

“People know they are better off now than they were two years ago and that all is going to come to a stop if we don't keep the majority, so we're going to fight hard till Tuesday,” Cheney told The Hill on Friday.

If Republicans defy the odds and hang on to the House, sources are expecting McHenry to make a play for majority whip, a post he appeared poised to win in 2015 until McCarthy unexpectedly dropped his bid for the Speakership.

McHenry has been crisscrossing the country and raising serious cash, including $7.7 million for GOP colleagues and another $2.6 million to the GOP campaign arm.

“McHenry ran for whip in 2015 and felt very good about where he was going there. He has done the chief deputy whip job successfully for 4 1/2 years,” said a senior GOP aide. “It’d be natural for him to move up.”

If Republicans are relegated to the minority on Tuesday, McHenry is expected to seek the ranking member slot on the powerful Financial Services Committee.

Juliegrace Brufke contributed from Toms River, N.J. Mike Lillis also contributed.