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House Republicans jockey for House majority leader job

WASHINGTON, June 12 (Reuters) - A handful of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are canvassing colleagues for support in an election for senior leadership positions next week.

House Republicans began scrambling for the second-ranking job when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning primary defeat this week prompted him to announce that he will step down from leadership on July 31.

House Speaker John Boehner is staying put, and will retain sway over the party's agenda and tactics no matter who wins the polls next Thursday.

The race for majority leader, manager of legislation on the House floor, is shaping up as a contest between two veterans, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions. But a Tea Party favorite, Raul Labrador of Idaho, is said to be considering jumping into the fray.

A three-way race is emerging to fill McCarthy's job as majority whip should he be elected majority leader. Lawmakers and aides say Representatives Peter Roskam, Steve Scalise and Marlin Stutzman are vying for the job of drumming up the Republican votes needed to pass bills.

On Thursday, one leading Texas lawmaker, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, said he had decided against a run for majority leader.

Here is a look at the major contenders so far:


The third-ranking House Republican has been essential to keeping Boehner's agenda on track, securing votes to pass controversial measures such as a deal to end last year's government shutdown, debt limit hikes and proposed budget cuts authored by Representative Paul Ryan. He has the backing of many mainstream Republicans and is seen as having an inherent advantage from his experience in reaching out to members and first-mover momentum. While McCarthy has not announced his candidacy, Cantor said he would back the central California lawmaker if he did so. Boehner, asked if he wanted to see McCarthy in the job, said that was a decision for members.


The chair of the powerful Rules Committee, which can kill legislation and proposed amendments before they reach the House floor, has emphasized his conservative fiscal views and a tough stance on immigration reforms. He chaired the Republican National Congressional Committee in the 2010 Tea Party wave election year, when Republicans seized control of the House. Just before Cantor announced his leadership resignation on Wednesday, Sessions walked straight to a stand of television cameras and announced his candidacy for the job, even revealing his major platform issue: securing the border with Mexico.


Labrador, first elected in 2010, is a Tea Party favorite whose name has also surfaced as a possibility to join the race for Majority Leader. A source familiar with Labrador's thinking said, "He's getting a lot of encouragement from other members."

Labrador's candidacy would allow Tea Party-backed conservatives to support one of their own. He has shown willingness to defy Boehner, and last year abandoned bipartisan House talks on an immigration overhaul. He has said Boehner should lose his gavel if he pursues immigration reform this year.


Calculating that McCarthy would take the majority leader position, Scalise is vying to replace him as majority whip, lawmakers and Republican aides said. He chairs the 170-member Republican Study Committee, which bills itself as the most influential conservative group in Congress. Scalise also gets high marks from outside conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth and would provide the most conservative members a voice within leadership.


Now the majority's chief deputy whip, Roskam had indicated a desire to move up the leadership chain to McCarthy's job, even before Cantor's primary loss. Some conservative lawmakers have suggested they would prefer a more hard-line conservative for majority whip, but like McCarthy, he has built relationships with a broad range of House members. Roskam also is known as a champion for comprehensive tax reform as an influential member of the Hosue Ways and Means Committee.


Stutzman, a farmer first elected in 2010, has also shown willingness to defy Boehner, helping lead a conservative revolt last September to insist on a straightforward vote to defund "Obamacare" health reforms, which eventually led to a government shutdown. He also authored a controversial House plan to split food stamps from an agricultural subsidy bill.

Stutzman told Howey Politics Indiana, a newsletter, that he viewed his chances as "a long shot," but said a number of Republicans are looking for a "red state conservative and a fresh face."