House GOP to huddle at 4 p.m. ET to plot future after Cantor defeat; Report: Cantor to step down as leader on July 31st; Update: Cantor to back McCarthy

Will Cantor step down as majority leader? Will he quit Congress entirely? Who’ll step up to lead the caucus if he goes? Sit tight. We’ll know more in just a few hours.


In the meantime, it doesn’t sound like he’s giving up his seat, at least:

What about his leadership position, though? If Boehner wants to pass something unpopular this summer, he’s better off having Cantor stay put as majority leader to absorb some of the heat. Problem is, the only big-ticket unpopular item on the agenda potentially is amnesty and no one thinks amnesty is happening now until next year at the earliest. They’re better off moving Cantor out now, then, and moving his replacement in so that the House isn’t dealing with uncertainty and palace intrigue about the new leadership all the way to November. (Besides, you can’t have Cantor out on the trail fundraising for other Republicans anymore either.) Early indications are that there are at least two candidates in the mix:

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas, two fierce rivals within the senior GOP leadership ranks, began courting members almost immediately upon Cantor’s loss to upstart challenger Dave Brat, a college economics professor…

Sessions is likely to remind members that in 2004, he was one of the few congressional Republicans who crossed the Bush administration and other party leaders and endorsed Pat Toomey in his GOP primary challenge of Sen. Arlen Specter.

McCarthy, the No. 3 ranking Republican, has better relationships with members and has been more active recently in helping them raise money and move legislation, is viewed as the early favorite in a head to head against Sessions. McCarthy helped recruit many of the members who were elected in 2010 and is a fundraising powerhouse in his own right. The looming question is whether a third heavyweight candidate joins the race.


Sessions has lots of friends in the caucus from his time spent fundraising for them as head of the NRCC, but then so does McCarthy. In fact, McCarthy beat Sessions in 2010 when they faced off to become the new House majority whip. They’ve both also suffered minor headaches from grassroots conservatives over the past year. Sessions beat tea-party activist Katrina Pierson in his own House primary a few months ago; McCarthy, meanwhile, supports legalizing illegals as part of a comprehensive deal on immigration reform, a position somewhat forced on him by the fact that his California district includes, as Politico put it, “a wide swath of Latino residents and agricultural workers.” If you’re expecting him to be firmer on amnesty than Cantor was, adjust your expectations.

What about Jeb Hensarling, the former head of the House Republican Conference, then? He said earlier today that he’s praying on his decision. House conservatives love him and are no doubt egging him on privately. Just as I’m writing this, Robert Costa has this news:

Not sure where that leaves Sessions. Another dark-horse possibility is Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, the highest-ranking woman in the caucus and the member who delivered the rebuttal to Obama’s State of the Union this year. Elevating her to majority leader would be counterprogramming against Democratic “war on women” attacks, but she’s being looked at right now by the House Ethics committee and, as a Twitter pal pointed out, she’s got some baggage after implying a few months ago that ObamaCare wouldn’t be repealed after all.


Lots of questions, few answers for now. Stay tuned. And no, in case you’re wondering, Cantor’s not going to try to mount a write-in campaign this fall. Quote: “I am a Republican and proud of that.”

Update: Turns out we don’t have to wait until the meeting for one answer.

Why July 31st? Why not go now?

Update: I’m not the only one who feels that way:

Which side of the caucus, the conservatives or the centrists, benefits more from waiting until July 31st? Centrists may be thinking that if they vote today, with the caucus terrified of conservative wrath at the polls, fencesitters are more likely to elect someone like Hensarling. Give them six weeks to regain their bearings and they might come home to McCarthy. I don’t know, though. McCarthy’s the guy who’s next in line and thus might benefit from a snap vote; the longer you wait, the more time you give Hensarling and House conservatives to whip votes against him.

Update: Hmmmmmmmm.


Update: No surprise here, but it sounds like we’re headed for a centrist/conservative war over the leadership position:

Update: Cantor’s going to hold a presser at 4:30 ET. Expect lots of pathos but probably not much news.

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