Washington Update - House Leadership Changes

By Benjamin E. Quayle / Jun 24, 2014

On June 10th, the political landscape in the U.S. Congress changed dramatically. On that day, Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader in the US House of Representatives, was unexpectedly defeated in his primary race by a little known Virginia college professor. Cantor was the odds-on favorite to succeed Representative John Boehner as the next Speaker of the House. Cantor's stunning defeat, however, has altered the political landscape and new faces have emerged to lead House Republicans.

As expected, House Republicans overwhelmingly elected Kevin McCarthy, the current Majority Whip and my former mentor and personal friend, last Thursday as the new Majority Leader. In a separate and hotly contested leadership race, Republicans also elected Steve Scalise of Louisiana on the first ballot as their new Majority Whip. McCarthy and Scalise will assume their new positions on July 31, 2014.

What to expect from the new leadership team

Kevin McCarthy's meteoric rise from a first-term Republican member from California in 2007 to Majority Leader in 2014 is the fastest in history. Based on my up close dealings with him, I can attest that McCarthy is extremely personable and has quickly cultivated strong relationships across ideological spectrums, geographic locations and levels of seniority. He is especially close to the two most recent freshman classes, which make up close to 50% of the current Republican conference.

McCarthy's keen political sense means he will play a pivotal in developing the House Republican message and legislative agenda heading into the 2014 mid-term elections and will be a powerful and influential voice when the 114th Congress convenes early next year.

McCarthy's immediate priority will be to unite the conference ahead of some contentious votes. Highway funding, funding the government for the next fiscal year and reauthorization of Ex-Im Bank will test the Republican conference over the next few months. Heading into the next Congress, McCarthy, staying true to his California roots, could present a legislative agenda that focuses on disruptive innovation leading the way to economic growth.

Steve Scalise has also risen through the ranks very rapidly. First elected in 2008 from Louisiana, Rep. Scalise served as Chairman of the Republican Study Committee (the conservative wing of the House Republicans) in the current Congress. As a result, many believe Scalise will be able to bridge the gap between the more conservative wing of the party and the House leadership. In his leadership race, he showed great ability in securing votes and knowing where his challengers stood as well. This skill set will be extraordinarily important as the chief vote counter for the House Republicans.

Having served closely with both McCarthy and Scalise in the prior Congress, I believe they will be great leaders for the Republican conference. Their deep understanding of policy issues, the political landscape and the concerns of individual members will serve them well.

Please feel free to contact me, or any other member of the government affairs team at Clark Hill, with any questions about this issue or any other government affairs needs.

Ben Quayle

(480) 684-1105