WASHINGTON — House Republicans picked Kevin McCarthy to serve as the next majority leader, promoting the California Republican a week after Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor announced his resignation from the leadership position because of his embarrassing primary loss.
During a closed-door meeting Thursday afternoon in the Longworth House Office Building, GOP lawmakers chose McCarthy, currently the body’s chief whip, over Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador.
The process took more than an hour: inside the Ways and Means hearing room, lawmakers gave speeches before voting by secret ballot. The votes were then hand counted.
Georgia Rep. Tom Graves delivered a speech in support of McCarthy before lawmakers voted.”For us right here as a conference, and as a party, we are all yearning for a state that doesn’t currently exist,” he said. “A state of unity.”
After his surprise loss in last Tuesday’s Republican primary in Virginia, Cantor announced he would step down as majority leader in July, though will serve out the rest of his congressional term.
The GOP leadership quickly scheduled the leadership elections for this week — something conservatives who clash with the current leadership argued was an unfair advantage to McCarthy. Conservative alternatives to McCarthy, they said, simply didn’t have adequate time to form a winning coalition.
Among those who took a pass at challenging McCarthy: Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan.
Labrador, elected to the House with the class of 2010, portrayed himself as the conservative alternative who could also unify the House GOP.
“I want a House leadership team that reflects the best of our conference,” Labrador said when he announced his run last week. “A leadership team that can bring the Republican conference together. A leadership team that can help unite and grow our party. Americans don’t believe their leaders in Washington are listening and now is the time to change that.”
Though McCarthy won the contest Thursday, he and the other members of the Republican leadership will have to run for their positions again after the midterm elections this year.
Some of Labrador’s conservative backers responded to McCarthy’s win by suggesting conservatives will run against him in November.
“Rep. Labrador’s impressive performance is indicative of a growing liberty caucus that is ready to make a policy agenda of individual liberty and fiscal responsibility a priority in the House,” FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe said. “We are looking forward to an even bigger group of liberty leadership candidates after the elections in November.”
After McCarthy was elected, the conference immediately started the process of voting for his replacement as House majority whip. Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise defeated Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam and Indiana Rep. Marlin A. Stutzman for the position.
Jane Bartlett Pappas contributed to this report