October 5, 2015

DELAY INDICATES DISARRAY: Boehner postpones House vote on House majority leader and whip. The GOP Conference’s vote on Speaker is still slated for Thursday.

Speaker John Boehner on Monday postponed the election for House majority leader and majority whip until next month, a blow to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who announced less than 24 hours earlier he had the votes to win the majority leader race.

The House Republican Conference will still choose its nominee for speaker on Thursday, and the full chamber will vote on Boehner’s successor on Oct. 29.

Boehner’s decision could take some of the pressure off House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the favorite to replace him. But the bigger impact may be on the majority leader’s race: the delay will give conservatives more time to find a candidate to run against Scalise (R-La.) and Georgia Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for the No. 2 leadership position.

Some hardline GOP conservatives are opposed to simply promoting McCarthy and Scalise up the leadership ranks following Boehner’s departure, believing that such a move will just leave in place a team that has failed to deliver on its promises to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood or dramatically reduce government spending. These hardliners have searched for an alternative candidate to Scalise and Price, but no one has stepped forward to take up that mantle. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) are running against McCarthy, but neither is given much of a chance of defeating the California Republican.

The delay likely means more leverage for the Freedom Caucus and its desire to get more conservative/tea party voices in the GOP leadership as either Majority Leader or Whip. While current Majority Whip Scalise is a definite conservative, he has been closely aligned with Boehner and is not a favorite of the tea party wing of the party.

As for the Speakership, I wouldn’t rule out Chaffetz, though time is not on his side. He’s a smart and principled guy who may be able to bridge the gap between the establishment and tea party wings of the GOP. While McCarthy has indicated he wishes to bridge this gap as well, his position within the Boehner leadership team has tainted him with the tea party wing.

RELATED: Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), current chair of the powerful House Rules Committee, announced today that he will seek the Majority Whip slot. Sessions is no tea party favorite, either.

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