House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping

House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are showing little appetite for a wholesale change in their leadership team after an anti-Trump wave last week swept them out of power for the first time in eight years.

Two of their top three leaders are expected to return as leaders in the new Congress.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Bret Stephens: Would love to see Hannity react when Dem declares climate change emergency MORE (R-Calif.) is projected to easily defeat conservative House Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Rod Rosenstein’s final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power MORE (R-Ohio) on Wednesday in the race for minority leader of the GOP’s diminished conference.

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Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Texas man with politician hit list, illegally 3D printed rifle sentenced to eight years The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? MORE (R-La.) is slated to become the next minority whip, with Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyOvernight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Liz Cheney calls for House vote on Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Liz Cheney mocks Booker over factory farming comments: 'I support PETA - People Eating Tasty Animals' MORE (R-Wyo.) poised to succeed Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHillicon Valley: Republicans demand answers from mobile carriers on data practices | Top carriers to stop selling location data | DOJ probing Huawei | T-Mobile execs stayed at Trump hotel as merger awaited approval House Republicans question mobile carriers on data practices Washington governor announces killer whale recovery plan MORE (R-Wash.) as GOP conference chair — a post Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, held more than three decades earlier.

Both Scalise and Cheney are running unopposed. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE (R-Wis.) is retiring from Congress in January and has endorsed McCarthy.

For many rank-and-file Republicans, now is not the time to rock the boat by replacing the entire leadership team. They believe their message of lower taxes, border security and less regulation is a good one — they just need to do a better job selling it to win back the majority in 2020.

“We’ve got a good team. We just need to be reminded that we’ve got a great product,” Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsCongress starts first day of shutdown with modest hope Senate agrees to last-ditch talks, but no clear path over shutdown Pelosi vows Dem help after GOP ‘meltdown’ on spending bills MORE (R-Texas), the self-described “car salesman of Congress,” told The Hill on Monday. “Sometimes you spend too much time beating down your competitor rather than saying what you’re about. We need to go sell our product and sell our conservative values.”

McCarthy, the 53-year-old affable, back-slapping Californian, is exuding confidence that he has the minority leader race wrapped up. He needs to win over only a simple majority of his roughly 200 GOP colleagues in the closed-door, secret-ballot election for minority leader.

In media interviews and phone calls with almost every House GOP lawmaker, McCarthy has been making the case that he’s best positioned to protect President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE against Democratic investigations, continue to grow the economy and lead Republicans back to the majority in two years.

“We had to fight to win this majority back in 2010. I was a big part of that. That was a much bigger hill to climb. I believe we can win this majority back,” McCarthy said in a Fox News interview over the weekend.

“I look at what the Democrats’ agenda is: It’s investigate the president, trying to impeach him, abolishing ICE,” he said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “America is too great to be led by such a small vision.”

After months of behind-the-scenes jockeying and rampant speculation about a potential shake-up, few GOP leadership challenges have materialized. Scalise, who had flirted with a possible bid for minority leader, ultimately decided not to take on his friendly rival McCarthy, settling instead for the party’s No. 2 post.

McMorris Rodgers, the No. 4 Republican and highest-ranking GOP woman on Capitol Hill, had been set to take on Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryOn The Money: Consumer bureau proposes scrapping borrower safeguards from payday loan rule | Negotiators running out of time to avert shutdown | Trump nominates World Bank critic as its next chief On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Local banks can lead bipartisan efforts on financial regulation MORE (R-N.C.) for the majority whip slot. But once Republicans lost the House, McMorris Rodgers decided she wouldn’t run for a fourth term in leadership.

McHenry, meanwhile, has decided to run for the top GOP spot on the influential House Financial Services Committee rather than climb the leadership ladder in the minority.

Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerPartnerships paving the way to sustain and support Historically Black Colleges and Universities Lawmaker seeks to ban ex-members from lobbying until sexual harassment settlements repaid Florida governor suspends Palm Beach County elections supervisor MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), is running unopposed to replace Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsHouse panel advances bill to expand background checks for gun sales House lawmakers roll out bill to make court records free Jewish advocacy group calls on Omar to apologize after 'stunningly anti-Semitic' tweet MORE (R-Ga.) as GOP conference vice chairman; Collins is running for the top GOP spot on the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithDon’t extend the electric vehicle tax credit; repeal it The Hill's Morning Report — Nasty shutdown fight gets nastier Democrat responds to being told 'go back to Puerto Rico' on House floor MORE (R-Mo.) will continue in his leadership role for another two years as conference secretary.

Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 GOP maps out early 2020 strategy to retake House Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy MORE (R-Minn.) is slated to be elected the next chairman of the House GOP’s campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, for the 2020 cycle after Reps. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisHouse Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 GOP lawmakers offer several locations for Trump address GOP lawmaker confronted by passenger for flying first class amid shutdown MORE (R-Ill.), Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerHouse Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for Scalise, Wagner plan to introduce discharge petition for abortion bill House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 MORE (R-Mo.) and Mimi WaltersMarian (Mimi) Elaine WaltersCrazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Ryan casts doubt on 'bizarre' California election results Election Countdown: Abrams ends fight in Georgia governor's race | Latest on Florida recount | Booker, Harris head to campaign in Mississippi Senate runoff | Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority MORE (R-Calif.) decided not to run.

But don’t expect the House Freedom Caucus, the group of far-right hard-liners close to Trump, to be cut of out power completely. The conservative group has caused countless headaches for past GOP leaders, so McCarthy and his team may want to offer Freedom Caucus leaders new roles where they can direct their wrath and energy at Democrats rather than their GOP leadership.

The roughly 30-member Freedom Caucus will make up a larger share of the GOP conference in the 116th Congress after centrist Republicans suffered heavy losses at the polls on election night.

Under one scenario, the leadership-aligned Steering Committee could hand Jordan or Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight Winners and losers in the border security deal GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration MORE (R-N.C.) the top GOP spot on either the Judiciary or the Oversight and Government Reform committees. Other Freedom Caucus members may land coveted spots on A-list panels like the Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce committees or win subcommittee ranking member slots.

So far, a pair of Freedom Caucus members — Reps. Gary PalmerGary James PalmerMcCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders MORE (R-Ala.) and David SchweikertDavid SchweikertHouse Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for Ethics committee expanding investigation into GOP rep over finance questions McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote MORE (R-Ariz.) — are the only ones running for GOP Policy Committee chairman, guaranteeing the caucus a spot at McCarthy’s leadership table.

Schweikert, a policy wonk who already serves on the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means panel, has been endorsed by FreedomWorks, an outside conservative group.

It’s unclear whether Meadows, a close Trump ally, will opt to remain as Freedom Caucus chairman after two years at the helm. If he steps aside, Rep. Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonWashington must defend American crypto innovation, not crush it GOP lawmaker unveils bill soliciting private contributions to pay for border wall Fractious GOP vows to unify in House minority MORE (R-Ohio) or Rep. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryHouse Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 House passes bill expressing support for NATO McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader MORE (R-Pa.) could assume the role, though Perry represents a district that just got more competitive after a redistricting, and he might not want to lead the ultra-conservative group.

In the race to replace Walker as RSC chairman, one-term Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonHouse panel advances bill to expand background checks for gun sales Lawmakers push crackdown on foreign lobbyists House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (R-La.) is squaring off against five-term, 62-year-old Rep. Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockHouse passes bill expressing support for NATO Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds Rep. Mike Johnson wins race for RSC chairman MORE (R-Calif.). GOP insiders say Johnson, 46, is the favorite; he is close to fellow Louisianan Scalise, a former RSC chairman, and will have the GOP whip’s vote-counting operation working in his favor.

The RSC election will be held separately on Wednesday.