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 McCarthyTrump officially makes Richard Grenell acting intelligence chief Overnight Energy: Trump signs order to divert water to California farmers | EPA proposes new rollback to Obama coal ash rules | Green group ranks Bloomberg, Klobuchar last in climate plans Trump signs order diverting water to California farmers against state wishes MORE (R-Calif.) is projected to easily defeat conservative House Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium Ex-Ohio State wrestler claims Jim Jordan asked him to deny abuse allegations 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 ScaliseBottom line Pelosi's staff huddles with aides in both parties on 'surprise' medical billing Republicans sense momentum after impeachment win MORE (R-La.) is slated to become the next minority whip, with Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyCheney blasts NYT for publishing op-ed by Taliban leader Minnesota congressman diagnosed with cancer Pelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei MORE (R-Wyo.) poised to succeed Rep. 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.) 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 RyanOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Paul Ryan says Biden likely won't get Democratic nomination Judd Gregg: Honey, I Shrunk The Party 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 WilliamsRepublicans sense momentum after impeachment win Democratic socialist group: Voters lost faith in Democratic Party after 2016 On The Money: Pelosi, Trump tout deal on new NAFTA | McConnell says no trade vote until impeachment trial wraps up | Lawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday 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 TrumpChasten Buttigieg: 'I've been dealing with the likes of Rush Limbaugh my entire life' Lawmakers paint different pictures of Trump's 'opportunity zone' program We must not turn our heads from the effects of traumatic brain injuries 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 chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits Fed chairman warns of economic damage from coronavirus House passes legislation to overhaul consumer credit reporting 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 WalkerHouse passes bipartisan bill to create women's history museum NCAA and its allies spent 0K on lobbying last year amid push for athlete pay Trump touts initiative for disadvantaged communities in Charlotte MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), is running unopposed to replace Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsOn the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Trump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify House to vote Thursday on removing ERA ratification deadline 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 SmithCongress must act to modernize the Endangered Species Act Even in a time of impeachment, health care is on the agenda House panel advances Trump's new NAFTA MORE (R-Mo.) will continue in his leadership role for another two years as conference secretary.

Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerTrump Jr. says Sanders won't be 'real competition' if he's the nominee House Democratic campaign arm raised .1 million in January Republicans sense momentum after impeachment win 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 DavisBlagojevich calls himself a 'Trumpocrat,' praises Trump after release from prison Sanders slams Trump pardons as part of 'broken and racist criminal justice system' Illinois GOP House delegation blasts Blagojevich commutation: 'The face of public corruption' MORE (R-Ill.), Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerOvernight 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 Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — Dems warn Trump against Medicaid block grants | Sanders under pressure on how to pay for 'Medicare for All' | China to allow in US health officials to study coronavirus 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 MeadowsLawmakers grill Census Bureau officials after report on cybersecurity issues Conservative lawmakers warn Pelosi about 'rate-setting' surprise billing fix House GOP leader says reassignment of Vindman was appropriate 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 SchweikertOvernight 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 Overnight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial 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 DavidsonOvernight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial Here are the lawmakers who defected on Iran legislation House votes to rein in Trump's military authority MORE (R-Ohio) or Rep. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryDCCC to run ads tying 11 House Republicans to Trump remarks on entitlements Koch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says Overnight Health Care: New drug price hikes set stage for 2020 fight | Conservative group to spend M attacking Pelosi drug plan | Study finds Medicaid expansion improved health in Southern states 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 JohnsonWhite House, Republicans blast Pelosi for ripping up copy of Trump speech Jordan says he will support McCarthy for Speaker if majority flips next year Collins Senate bid sets off game of musical chairs for GOP MORE (R-La.) is squaring off against five-term, 62-year-old Rep. Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockOvernight Energy: Panel gives chairman power to subpoena Interior | House passes bill to protect wilderness | House Republicans propose carbon capture bill | Ocasio-Cortez introduces bill to ban fracking House Natural Resources gives Grijalva power to subpoena Interior Overnight Energy: Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez bill would outlaw fracking | Emails show weather service employees frustrated by 'Sharpiegate' | House panel schedules vote to subpoena Interior 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.