It seems likely that California Rep. Kevin McCarthy will become the next House majority leader, as his only active opponent for the position dropped out of the race Thursday night.
Texas Rep. Pete Sessions spent the week whipping support to replace outgoing majority leader Eric Cantor, but decided Thursday to withdraw from the contest.
“After thoughtful consideration and discussion with my colleagues, I have made the decision to not continue my run for House Majority Leader,” Sessions said in a statement provided by his office.
“Today, it became obvious to me that the measures necessary to run a successful campaign would have created unnecessary and painful division within our party,” Sessions said. “At this critical time, we must remain unified as a Republican Conference. As always, I stand ready and willing to work with our team to advance the conservative agenda that the American people demand and deserve.”
The withdrawal from Sessions paves the way for McCarthy, the House majority whip, to move up in the ranks of the House GOP when leadership elections are held next week.
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, though he will serve out the rest of his congressional term.
The GOP leadership quickly scheduled the leadership elections for next Thursday — something conservatives who want to shake up the current leadership structure are arguing is an unfair advantage to McCarthy, skilled at whipping members.
The more conservative wing of the Republican conference have been trying to recruit an alternative to run against McCarthy, though none has surfaced yet.
Some conservative lawmakers have asked Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, to reconsider his decision not to run.
Another conservative favorite, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, announced Thursday that he will not enter the contest.
Though time is ticking for someone else to jump in the race, conservatives may have one last hope in Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador.
“He’s getting a lot of encouragement from other members,” said a source familiar with Labrador’s thinking.
Labrador, who often speaks out about immigration reform, was elected to the House in 2010. He has clashed with the establishment before, voting against John Boehner as speaker in 2013.