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 McHenryThe Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? Financial trade tax gains traction with 2020 Democrats Fed chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits MORE (R-N.C.) is expected to seek a promotion in GOP leadership and challenge Conference Chair Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersCelebrating and expanding upon five years of the ABLE  Act Koch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says Lawmakers voice skepticism over Facebook's deepfake ban 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 CheneyCheney, House Republicans express 'serious concerns' with US-Taliban deal This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Overnight Defense: GOP lawmaker takes unannounced trip to Syria | Taliban leader pens New York Times op-ed on peace talks | Cheney blasts paper for publishing op-ed 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 McCarthyCongress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Lawmakers race to pass emergency coronavirus funding Warren introduces bill to redirect wall money to coronavirus MORE (R-Calif.), Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseSanders, socialism emerge as top targets at CPAC The Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders top target at CPAC House passes historic legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime 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 PelosiOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Hillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment 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 HoyerLawmakers dedicate Oversight room to Cummings, unveil plaque Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket Trump names Pence to lead coronavirus response 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 RichmondJuan Williams: Don't count Biden out Beleaguered Biden turns to must-win South Carolina Biden, Warren on ropes after delegate shutout MORE (D-La.) wrote in the letter.

The letter does not explicitly endorse Rep. Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Bill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias Biden announces best day of fundraising with .2 million 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 BuddBoosting resource officers will help curb school violence Trump touts initiative for disadvantaged communities in Charlotte Koch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says MORE, Richard HudsonRichard Lane HudsonLawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa North Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats MORE and George HoldingGeorge Edward Bell HoldingGOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts House GOP vows to use impeachment to cut into Democratic majority Mark Walker mulling 2022 Senate bid, won't seek reelection in the House MORE; GOP hopeful Denver Riggleman in Virginia; Rep. Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurRepublicans plot comeback in New Jersey Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MORE in New Jersey; Rep. John FasoJohn James FasoThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority GOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads MORE in New York; and Rep. Andy BarrAndy Hale BarrOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Democrats seek to preempt Trump message on health care | E-cigarette executives set for grilling | Dems urge emergency funding for coronavirus Democrats slam GOP on drug prices in bilingual digital ads On the Trail: Forget the pundits, more electoral votes could be in play in 2020 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 BoehnerCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Lobbying world Pelosi-Trump relationship takes turn for the terrible 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 EnziThe Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Republicans scramble to avoid Medicare land mine 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.