Hensarling opts out of GOP race

Hensarling opts out of GOP race
© Anne Wernikoff

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) will not run to replace House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorEmbattled Juul seeks allies in Washington GOP faces tough battle to become 'party of health care' 737 crisis tests Boeing's clout in Washington MORE (R-Va.).

The conservative favorite said in a statement Thursday he was not going to challenge Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) for the No. 2 spot in House GOP leadership.

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“Although I am humbled by the calls, emails, and conversations from my colleagues encouraging me to return to leadership for the remainder of the 113th Congress, I will not be a candidate for Majority Leader next week,” he said. “After prayerful reflection, I have come to the conclusion that this is not the right office at the right time for me and my family.”

The chairman of the powerful banking panel is a long-time favorite of conservatives, and many wanted Hensarling to take on a larger role in the party to represent their interests after the stunning primary loss from Cantor. The six-term lawmaker previously was a member of GOP leadership in a reduced capacity, serving as head of the House Republican Conference from 2011-2013.

Hensarling has kept a low profile amid the leadership shakeup. He put out a statement Wednesday morning saying many had told him to pursue a leadership spot, but just that he was “prayerfully considering the best way I can serve.”

As Republicans filed in to a closed-door meeting that evening, Hensarling made a quiet entrance, avoiding reporters at the same time Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) was making his case for majority leader to the cameras.

House Republicans are set to vote on a new leadership team on June 19. Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) are competing to replace McCarthy as majority whip.

Hensarling’s decision not to run leaves a vacuum in the leadership race and will likely set off a scramble among conservatives to find an alternative.

Pundits on the right are lining up against McCarthy, who is now the majority whip, arguing it’s time for House Republicans to chart a new course.

"McCarthy is squishy on a host of issues, bad on immigration, and not a friend of conservatives," conservative Erick Erickson wrote on his website Thursday. "House Republicans looked on the biggest electoral surprise of the year and are giving it the middle finger.”
 
— This story was updated at 10:54 a.m.