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 McCarthyWatchdog: Custodial staff alleged sexual harassment in lawmakers' offices John Legend, Chrissy Teigen lash out at Trump at Dem retreat Republicans call for ex-Trump lawyer Cohen to be referred to DOJ MORE (R-Calif.) is projected to easily defeat conservative House Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanDems digging into Trump finances post-Mueller Overnight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group Cummings accuses Oversight Republicans of obstructing drug price probe 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 Scalise20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform GOP to launch discharge petition on anti-BDS measure This week: Democrats revive net neutrality fight MORE (R-La.) is slated to become the next minority whip, with Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyRep. Cheney: Socialism 'driving the agenda of the Democratic Party' Dem lawmaker offers tool for 'filling in the blanks' of Green New Deal Judd Gregg: In praise of Mike Enzi MORE (R-Wyo.) poised to succeed Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersCongress has questions for Google's 'Sensorvault' We can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's Overnight Energy: Wheeler vows to keep funds for Great Lakes cleanup | Inslee presses Trump on climate in House testimony | Dems seek more funds for Interior watchdog 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 RyanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers FEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday 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 WilliamsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today CPAC attendees say Biden poses greatest threat to Trump Don’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall 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 TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 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 McHenryDems digging into Trump finances post-Mueller Dems challenge bank CEOs on post-crisis reforms Wells Fargo CEO steps down amid calls for removal 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 WalkerMembers spar over sexual harassment training deadline Colorado state senators plan to introduce bill to let NCAA athletes get paid Republicans offer 'free market alternative' to paid family leave MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), is running unopposed to replace Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsHouse Judiciary chairman subpoenas former White House lawyer McGahn Top Judiciary Republican reviews less-redacted Mueller report Democrats renew attacks on Trump attorney general 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 SmithMain Street businesses need permanent tax relief to grow House panel votes to boost spending by 3B over two years Progressives come to Omar's defense MORE (R-Mo.) will continue in his leadership role for another two years as conference secretary.

Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP McCarthy holds courtesy meeting with ex-Rep. Grimm Progressive demands put new pressures on Democrats 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 DavisMembers spar over sexual harassment training deadline The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seeks tougher rules on asylum seekers House passes Paycheck Fairness Act MORE (R-Ill.), Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerRepublicans offer 'free market alternative' to paid family leave Top GOP lawmaker moves to force floor vote on abortion bill This week: Senate GOP prepares to change rules on Trump nominees MORE (R-Mo.) and Mimi WaltersMarian (Mimi) Elaine WaltersGOP plots comeback in Orange County Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Ryan casts doubt on 'bizarre' California election results 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 — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Mueller report poses new test for Dems Washington in frenzy over release of Mueller report 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 PalmerPoll: Roy Moore leading Alabama GOP field Overnight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA Six Republicans named to House climate panel MORE (R-Ala.) and David SchweikertDavid SchweikertHouse Ethics Committee extends probe of Arizona GOP lawmaker On The Money: Trump trade chief sees tough work ahead on China | Cohen offers gripping testimony | Tells lawmakers Trump inflated assets | Deduction cap could hit 11 million taxpayers | Senate confirms top IRS lawyer Trump trade chief warns of tough work ahead on China deal 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 DavidsonBlockchain could spark renaissance economy New push to open banks to marijuana industry Washington must defend American crypto innovation, not crush it MORE (R-Ohio) or Rep. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryBlockchain could spark renaissance economy House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 House passes bill expressing support for NATO 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 McClintockConservation happens one animal at a time House passes bill expressing support for NATO Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds 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.