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 McCarthyWhite House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Nunes accuses Democrats of promoting 'conspiracy theories' MORE (R-Calif.) is projected to easily defeat conservative House Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem impeachment report highlights phone records Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing House Republicans on Judiciary strategize ahead of Wednesday's impeachment hearing 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 ScaliseRepublicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Nunes accuses Democrats of promoting 'conspiracy theories' Pressure grows on House GOP leaders to hold line ahead of impeachment trial MORE (R-La.) is slated to become the next minority whip, with Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran Cruz, Graham and Cheney call on Trump to end all nuclear waivers for Iran Pompeo: US ending sanctions waiver for site where Iran resumed uranium enrichment MORE (R-Wyo.) poised to succeed Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersIsraeli, Palestinian business leaders seek Trump boost for investment project The Suburban Caucus: Solutions for America's suburbs Shimkus announces he will stick with plan to retire after reconsidering 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 RyanDuncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden Trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, and hardly a voice of caution to be heard 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 WilliamsSupreme Court poised to hear first major gun case in a decade Live coverage: Zuckerberg testifies before House on Facebook's Libra project Population shifts set up huge House battleground 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 TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report 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 McHenryFed's top regulator takes heat from both parties NC rep explores Tillis primary challenge Democrats likely to gain seats under new North Carolina maps 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 WalkerNC rep explores Tillis primary challenge Democrats likely to gain seats under new North Carolina maps On The Money: Trump opens surprise new front in trade war | Trump official proposes tariffs on .4B in French goods | US manufacturing contracts for fourth straight month MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), is running unopposed to replace Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThree legal scholars say Trump should be impeached; one thinks otherwise GOP lawmaker: 'Amazing' Democrats would ask if Founding Fathers would back Trump impeachment The Hill's 12:30 Report: Impeachment fight shifts to House Judiciary 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 SmithPressure rises on Cheney to make decision Seniors deserve access to Health Savings Accounts House passes sweeping budget, debt limit deal MORE (R-Mo.) will continue in his leadership role for another two years as conference secretary.

Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerRepublicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar George Papadopoulos launches campaign to run for Katie Hill's congressional seat Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement 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 DavisHillicon Valley: Trump officials propose retaliatory tariffs over French digital tax | FBI classifies FaceApp as threat | Twitter revamps policies to comply with privacy laws | Zuckerberg defends political ads policy GOP criticizes Pelosi for sidelining election security for impeachment Rising GOP star thrust into spotlight with Trump defense MORE (R-Ill.), Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerFed's top regulator takes heat from both parties Israeli, Palestinian business leaders seek Trump boost for investment project The Suburban Caucus: Solutions for America's suburbs MORE (R-Mo.) and Mimi WaltersMarian (Mimi) Elaine WaltersFormer GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company GOP plots comeback in Orange County Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine 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 MeadowsGOP lawmakers, Trump campaign rip 'liberal law professors' testifying in impeachment hearing Live coverage: Witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses House Republicans on Judiciary strategize ahead of Wednesday's impeachment hearing 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 PalmerTrump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race GOP protest overshadows impeachment hearing Republicans storm closed-door hearing to protest impeachment inquiry MORE (R-Ala.) and David SchweikertDavid SchweikertLive updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Ethics Committee releases new details on allegations against Arizona GOP lawmaker GOP lawmakers call for provisions barring DOD funds for border wall to be dropped 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 DavidsonFinancial sector's work on SAFE Banking Act shows together, everyone achieves more Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess GOP leaders struggle to contain conservative anger over budget deal MORE (R-Ohio) or Rep. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryBillboards calling on House Republicans to 'do their job' follow members home for Thanksgiving Yovanovitch impeachment testimony gives burst of momentum to Democrats House Republicans prepare for public impeachment proceedings with mock hearing 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 JohnsonLive coverage: Witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing House Republicans on Judiciary strategize ahead of Wednesday's impeachment hearing MORE (R-La.) is squaring off against five-term, 62-year-old Rep. Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockJudiciary Republican asks impeachment witnesses if they voted for Trump Live coverage: Witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses This week: Impeachment inquiry moves to Judiciary Committee 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.