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Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders

Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders
© Greg Nash

Conservative groups called on Republicans to replace their entire House leadership lineup with fresh faces on Wednesday, a day after the GOP lost control of the lower chamber for the first time in eight years.

With Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanEarmarks look to be making a comeback Former staffers push Congress for action on sexual harassment measure House Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader MORE (R-Wis.) retiring, conservative leaders said they wanted Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader Trump’s hard lesson for Republicans: Fight back The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress returns to leadership races, lame-duck drama MORE (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseNew hurdle arises in Pelosi’s march to speakership This week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping MORE (R-La.) and Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersThis week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Congress braces for high-drama lame duck MORE (R-Wash.) to step aside and make room for new, more conservative leadership.

The groups endorsed Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHouse Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress returns to leadership races, lame-duck drama This week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight MORE (R-Ohio), a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, over McCarthy for minority leader, the top GOP post in the House next year.

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“If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then a vote for Kevin McCarthy for minority leader is a vote for insanity,” Noah Wall, vice president of advocacy for FreedomWorks, said at a post-election news conference in Washington.

“We need new leadership. We need Jim Jordan to be minority leader. We need to have a breath of fresh air in how Congress is run,” Wall said. “And we need to go retake Congress in 2020 with a new leadership that will have a vision for the future of this country.”

Others grass-roots leaders who joined Wall at the news conference included David McIntosh, president of Club for Growth; Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots; Ken Cuccinelli, head of the Senate Conservatives Fund; and David Bozell, president of For America.

The leaders blamed Ryan and McCarthy’s team for losing the House, saying they had pushed through big spending bills, ignored regular order and failed to deliver on their promise of repealing ObamaCare, even though the House passed a repeal measure. Conservatives also singled out McCarthy for urging candidates to localize their individual races instead of forging stronger ties with President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE and nationalizing their races with hot-button issues like illegal immigration.

“Republicans never win elections unless they are nationalized around conservative issues,” said Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative figure and chairman of ConservativeHQ.com.

But McCarthy and Scalise, who is running for minority whip, the No. 2 GOP post, are confident they have enough support in the conference to win their respective leadership contests. Republicans will hold closed-door, secret-ballot elections next week, and candidates will need only a simple majority of their colleagues’ support to secure each position.

That shouldn’t be too difficult for McCarthy and Scalise, sometimes seen as friendly rivals, since they have spent much of the past few months stumping and raising money for colleagues around the country.

In a letter to colleagues Wednesday, McCarthy pitched himself as the right person to lead the party back to the majority in 2020. The California Republican co-authored the “Young Guns” playbook that helped the GOP win back the majority in 2010.

“We may have lost this battle, but the struggle for America’s future is just beginning,” McCarthy wrote in his letter. “And the terrain now shifts in our favor, with at least a dozen seats in Trump-carried districts providing opportunities for us to go on offense starting today.”

Both McCarthy and Jordan are seen as close allies of Trump, but in recent weeks the president, his son Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpMueller targets Stone in final push Robert De Niro says goodbye to ‘Jeff Sessions’ on ‘Saturday Night Live’ Election Countdown: Recount prospects grow in Florida | Abrams team to sue over absentee ballots | Dem wins pivotal Georgia House seat | A look at the uncalled races | Corporations spend big to beat ballot measures MORE and Kimberly Guilfoyle, Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, have rallied behind McCarthy.

Scalise, who barely survived a gunman’s bullet last year, is running uncontested for minority whip.

One GOP lawmaker who backs McCarthy and Scalise criticized the outside conservative groups, saying they “don’t know the conference and the personal relationships the members have. Steve Scalise literally shed blood for the conference and McCarthy has worked hard traveling around the country for individual members over the years.”

But the lawmaker said there could be a “legitimate” call for change down the road depending on how McCarthy and Scalise respond to House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Clyburn says some critics are using race to oppose his leadership bid Congress can unite on global affairs MORE (Calif.), the favorite to take over the Speaker’s office in January.

The race for the No. 3 GOP spot could pit Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThis week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Congress braces for high-drama lame duck MORE (R-Wyo.), the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney who won her father’s old congressional seat just two years ago, against McMorris Rodgers, the
conference chairwoman for the past six years.

Cheney appears to have backing from Scalise and his top ally, Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryHouse Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping On The Money: Dems mark Trump tax returns as key part of agenda | Waters defends planned probe of Trump finances after GOP backlash | Reports: Trump mulls replacing Commerce chief Ross by end of year Waters defends planned probe of Trump finances after GOP backlash MORE (R-N.C.), which would put her in prime position to mount a strong challenge to McMorris Rodgers. She has not yet indicated to colleagues that she is running for another term in leadership.

Lower down the ladder, Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerThis week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said Wednesday he will run to succeed Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsHouse Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders As Kanye goes to the White House, both sides credit Kushner for prison reform MORE (R-Ga.) as vice chairman of the GOP conference. Collins is angling to become the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

After a disappointing Election Day, Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst Stivers Conservative magazine posts recording of King using derogatory language against immigrants Steve King accuses Weekly Standard of trying to ‘advance a Leftist agenda’ Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders MORE (R-Ohio) told colleagues on Wednesday he will not run for a second term leading the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the House GOP’s campaign arm.

Three of Stivers’s top deputies — Reps. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerHouse Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders Election Countdown: Midterm fallout | What we learned | What to watch next | Trump calls out lawmakers who lost | A look at the undecided races | Vote deepens urban, rural divide | Women help deliver Dems House | McConnell thanks Trump for Senate gains MORE (R-Minn.), Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerHouse Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders Election Countdown: Midterm fallout | What we learned | What to watch next | Trump calls out lawmakers who lost | A look at the undecided races | Vote deepens urban, rural divide | Women help deliver Dems House | McConnell thanks Trump for Senate gains MORE (R-Mo.) and Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) — are vying to replace Stivers as NRCC chairman.

While Jordan will find it tough to best McCarthy in the minority leader race, McIntosh, the Club for Growth president and a former Indiana congressman, said he could endorse a compromise coalition that includes Freedom Caucus and GOP establishment leaders. One dream team, he said, could include Jordan, Scalise and Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress returns to leadership races, lame-duck drama House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders MORE (R-N.C.).

“A Jordan-Meadows coalition with the mainstream is the strongest solution,” McIntosh told The Hill.

Contenders for House GOP Leadership

Minority Leader
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

Minority Whip
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.)

GOP Conference Chair
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)

GOP Conference Vice Chair
Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.)

NRCC Chair
Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.)
Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.)
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.)

Policy Chair
Rep. Gary PalmerGary James PalmerHouse Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders Overnight Health Care: House votes to repeal medical device tax | Fierce ObamaCare critic joins administration | GOP senators target DC individual mandate MORE (R-Ala.)