As Eric Cantor Falls, Texas Congressmen Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions Look to Move Up

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Dallas Republican Reps. Pete Sessions (left) and Jeb Hensarling (right) are both angling to replace Rep. Eric Cantor as the Republican Majority Leader

It did not take long. After Majority Leader Eric Cantor's surprising loss Tuesday night to “some-dude” professor David Brat, the vultures in the Republican caucus began to talk amongst themselves on who should next assume the mantle of Majority Leader. Among the names being mentioned are two Texas Republicans from the Dallas metroplex: Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions.

Already running for Majority Leader is Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California. McCarthy will start strong as the number three in the House and has earned Cantor's endorsement. Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Peter Roskam of Illinois have both announced they plan to run for Majority Whip if the position were to become vacant through McCarthy's elevation. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, who as the Conference Chair is the fourth highest ranking Republican, is also looking at how to elevate her stature.

Rep. Pete Sessions has said he will run for Majority Leader, and seems hell-bent on stopping McCarthy. But Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the current Chair of Financial Services and former Conference Chair, may be in position to short circuit the entire process. Update, 10:11 a.m.: Jeb Hensarling has announced he will not be a candidate for Leadership. McCarthy claims to have the votes locked up but Sessions is proceeding with his bid for Majority Leader anyways.

A vote will occur for the new leadership team on June 19 and Cantor is expected to relinquish his title at the end of July. Learn more of Texas Reps. Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling and the intricacies of this unfolding drama after the jump.As third in line, McCarthy appears to be the obvious choice and potentially the favorite to move up to the number two job. However, something as rare as an opening in leadership attracts a lot of potential contenders. Also, one does not tend to climb so high in politics without making a few enemies. For Kevin McCarthy, Pete Sessions would like nothing more than to block McCarthy's assent. In 2010, Sessions served as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee and helped elect many of the sixty plus Republicans that gave the Republicans their new majority. Sessions felt like he earned a slot in leadership and took the initial steps to run against McCarthy for the job of Majority Whip, but pulled the plug on his nomination when he realized he lacked the votes. The relationship between the two has reportedly been icy since with Sessions eager to remove McCarthy from the job.

Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rogers is trying to figure out how she can become a player in either the Leader or Whip races and raise her profile above that of fourth in the Republican Caucus. She does have some appeal as the only female running for either of the positions. While Sessions wants the job of Majority Leader, he really does not want Kevin McCarthy to have the job either. Rumor has it, Sessions may defer to McMorris Rogers for Majority Leader if it would block McCarthy and Sessions lacks the votes to succeed himself.

Then there's Rep. Jeb Hensarling. Several of the louder conservative Republicans such as Rep. Huelskamp are actively pushing Hensarling as their candidate of choice. One thing many of the rank and file want in the leadership is a member from a “red state.” Currently, the leadership is made of Speaker Boehner of Ohio, Eric Cantor of Virginia, Kevin McCarthy of California, and Cathy McMorris Rogers of Washington; all states President Obama carried in both 2008 and 2012. Hensarling, being from Texas, would be from a “red state” and, in theory, would have a better connection to the Republican base. Hensarling, however, appears to be playing coy and is acting as though he wants to be drafted into running rather than seizing the opportunity. While he waits, McCarthy is getting closer and closer to locking up the Leader job through his aggressiveness and as embodied by his campaign motto: “speed kills.”

If McCarthy locks up the Leader job, Sessions appears ready to try for Whip instead. Working in Sessions favor, Republican members would feel a need to elect a “red state” member to leadership, which would harm bids by Peter Roskam of Illinois and McMorris Rogers of Washington. Hensarling and Sessions also appear unlikely to run against each other due to the closeness of their geopolitical bases. This means it is likely the Whip job could likely turn into a battle between Sessions and Scalise of Louisiana. Scalise is already calling members and trying to whip votes for his election, so if Sessions were to come in late to the race, he would likely be starting at a disadvantage.

All of this information came from the invaluable reporting of The Washington Post's Robert Costa. Costa provided regular updates throughout the day yesterday and has been very active on Twitter with updates on the story. If any reader wants to learn more about the internal workings of the national House Republican caucus, I would encourage you to follow Robert Costa on Twitter at @CostaReports.

You can follow me on Twitter at @trowaman.


About Author

Joseph Vogas

Joseph was raised in Friendswood, Texas in North Galveston County. He went on to graduate from the University of North Texas with a degree in Political Science. After working for multiple campaigns, Joseph was able to work in the 83rd legislature in Austin in 2013. While retired from professional campaign work, Joseph enjoys sharing his knowledge of campaign data how to win elections in naturally unfriendly turf with others. Joseph is an avid archer and enjoys all things geek including Star Wars and DC Comics.

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