WASHINGTON — As California Rep. Kevin McCarthy moves swiftly to line up support to replace Eric Cantor as majority leader, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling announced Thursday that he will not run against him.
By not running, Hensarling delivers a blow to those who want to shake-up the current structure of the House GOP leadership.
“Although I am humbled by the calls, emails, and conversations from my colleagues encouraging me to return to leadership for the remainder of the 113th Congress, I will not be a candidate for Majority Leader next week,” Hensarling said in a statement.
“After prayerful reflection, I have come to the conclusion that this is not the right office at the right time for me and my family,” he said. “I look forward to working with the new Majority Leader to fight for a freer, stronger, more prosperous America as Chairman of the Financial Services Committee and the Representative of the Fifth District of Texas.”
Conservatives had been pressuring Hensarling to challenge McCarthy, who is currently the House majority whip.
A number of conservatives pointed Hensarling out as the best alternative to McCarthy.
“Hensarling seems the most willing to listen and work with people who are concerned about the direction of the country right now and who are looking for a stronger, stiffer opposition to Obama’s radical agenda,” said one well-known conservative activist who is plugged-in on Capitol Hill.
On Wednesday, Hensarling said he was “prayerfully considering” his options.
“I am humbled by the many people who have approached me about serving our Republican Conference in a different capacity in the future,” Hensarling said.
Hensarling is the former chairman of the House Republican Conference and currently the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
With Hensarling out, Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, the chairman of the House Rules Committee who led the NRCC during the 2010 elections, is the only other person currently whipping support for a run.
Appearing on the Hugh Hewitt show on Wednesday, former Florida Rep. Joe Scarborough was asked by the host: “If you were a member of Congress, Joe Scarborough, again, and you wanted to elect the more conservative member, would you vote for Hensarling or McCarthy?”
“Boy, you’re going to get me in trouble,” Scarborough, the MSNBC host, replied. “But I’d vote for Jeb. He’s more conservative.”
Though he said McCarthy is a better communicator than Hensarling, Scarborough said: “I’d vote for Jeb, because I don’t like what the House Republicans have been doing over the last several years.”
After his surprising lost in his Republican primary on Tuesday night, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor announced on Wednesday afternoon that he plans to step down as majority leader next month and will throw his support behind McCarthy. Leadership elections are expected to take place next Thursday.
Cantor surprisingly lost his primary election on Tuesday to David Brat, a political unknown and an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College.
“I can tell you that if my dear friend and colleague Kevin McCarthy does decide to run, I think he’d make an outstanding majority leader,” Cantor said. “And I will be backing him with my full support.”
Some conservative activists, though, have taken to blog posts to sound the alarm on McCarthy. Erick Erickson, the influential editor of RedState.com, wrote a post titled: “Not McCarthy.”
“McCarthy is a non-starter for conservatives and the bad blood will continue,” he said.
The Daily Caller has put in requests to interview both McCarthy and Hensarling.