McMorris Rodgers, Tom Price vie to become Republican conference chair

WASHINGTON – With one election down, it’s on to the next one. On Wednesday, Georgia Rep. Tom Price and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will face off to see who will become the next Republican Conference Chair of the United States House of Representatives, the number four position in House Republican leadership.

McMorris Rodgers, who represents Washington’s 5th Congressional District, is currently the conference vice chair, making her the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress. Price is a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

The election will take place on Wednesday by secret ballot, but backers of the two candidates are lining up publicly.

On McMorris Rodgers’ side are the House leadership, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, and a number of committee chairs — McMorris Rodgers’ camp claims fifteen, including energy and commerce committee chair Rep. Fred Upton.

Officially, the leadership is staying out of it — both Boehner’s office and Majority Leader Eric Cantor declined to comment — but Boehner got involved last week when, looking to avert a showdown, he offered Price the ceremonial chairmanship of the Elected Leadership Council.

Price turned down the offer, Buzzfeed reported.

In Price’s corner, the big name is Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who was recently the party’s vice presidential nominee. Also backing Price are some stalwart conservatives in the House: Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Mike Pence.

Outside of Congress, conservative pundit Michelle Malkin and Freedomworks have also endorsed Price. They may not directly give Price votes, but their support helps Price by casting the race as a microcosm of the larger question facing the Republican Party about how to move forward: Should the party more strongly emphasize conservative principles, or  “evolve” on certain issues?

Price, according to Malkin’s tweets, represents a conservative “willing to push back.” The other option, she tweeted in the midst of a string of tweets about Price, would be “pandering to Left’s identity politics above staunch conservative leadership.”

Price’s election “would signal a clear commitment by the GOP to renew their promise to American taxpayers to advance fiscally responsible policy in Washington,” said Freedomworks press secretary Jackie Bodnar.

McMorris Rodgers’ supporters have pushed back hard against the idea that she is any less conservative than Price.

Rep. Tim Scott, a vocal supporter of her leadership bid, noted that, looking at six different rankings of members, McMorris Rodgers and Price are very close together on the political spectrum.

A senior Republican aide familiar with McMorris Rodgers’ whip count said she “hasn’t lost a single vote” since Ryan, whose profile increased with his vice presidential run, sent a letter to colleagues this week reiterating his support for Price, whom he has been openly supporting since before he was selected as the vice presidential nominee.