Eric Cantor

[UPDATE: Sessions Out! Labrador In?] Cantor's Successor: Kevin McCarthy or Pete Sessions?



CQ Roll Call blogged last night that Sessions announced that he will no longer be seeking the House majority leader position. However, it's also worth noting that Rep. Raul Labrador, who has been described as "a conservative-libertarian" is considering a bid for the spot: 

When CQ Roll Call raised the possibility of Raúl R. Labrador, one lawmaker in the group called it "an astute guess."

A source familiar with Labrador's thinking said a lot of members were encouraging the Idaho Republican to run for the position.

But any bids at this point would be very long shots at best — and the focus will now turn to the wide open races down ballot — especially for McCarthy's whip job.

[End of update]

The primary loss of Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to libertarian-ish college professor Dave Brat came as a major shock. One of the big questions now is, who will take Cantor's spot as the House majority leader?

There was a brief scramble when Cantor officially announced that he'd be stepping down, but the field already seems to be narrowed down to two representatives: Kevin McCarthy of California and Pete Sessions of Texas. Republicans will hold a snap election next week to pick one of them. Here's the scoop on both.

Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy leads the Committee on Financial Services and is the Majority Whip.

Cantor has endorsed McCarthy, though House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), to whom Cantor was seen as a potential successor, has declined to make an endorsement. He said, "The members will make the decision."

McCarthy has received middling reviews from various organizations for his own conservative chops. This year he earned a 50 percent rank from The New American (TNA) and a 46 percent from Heritage Action for America (HAA), though he did get an 87 percent from Americans for Prosperity (AFP). McCarthy has also been ranked as 36 percent liberal by National Journal. On civil rights and liberties, he's received 0 percent ratings from both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Leadership Conference on Civil Liberties and Human Rights. On the much-discussed issue of immigration, NumbersUSA (an immigration reduction organization) grades McCarthy a "B+."

Lisa Mascaro of the Los Angeles Times believes that "the affable McCarthy, now the No. 3 Republican in the House, is by no means the top choice among tea party lawmakers who believe the current leadership is tied too closely to the party's establishment wing," but he has a "virtual lock" on the position.

By contrast, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza argues that "in a struggle… defined by the tea party-versus-establishment narrative, it's not clear that McCarthy's status as heir apparent, much less a close ally of Cantor's, will necessarily be an advantage."

If he wins, McCarthy would be the least experienced person in GOP history to ever hold the position, according to another Post article. 

Pete Sessions

Sessions, who has been in office since 1997, is the chairman of the House Committee on Rules and is a member of both the Tea Party Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Conference.  

The Dallas Morning News reports that many fellow Republican Texans are coalescing around him.

Sessions is seen as more conservative, having received a 63 percent conservative rank from TNA, a 73 from HAA, and 87 percent from AFP. He received the same 0 score from the ACLU and the Leadership Conference. National Journal gives him a 27 percent liberal ranking. NumbersUSA grades him a "B."

He has been at the heart of a few controversies, such as receiving cronyistic loans from Countrywide Financial and earmarking $1.6 million for dirigible research from Jim G. Ferguson & Associates, which has no experience in the field.

Real Clear Politics' Caitlin Huey-Burns notes that "many lawmakers heading into meetings Wednesday expressed a preference for a "red state conservative" to enter one of the soon-to-open leadership posts. The current top four leaders hail from" states that "have trended blue (or purple) in recent elections." This would be to Sessions' advantage as a Texan and McCarthy's disadvantage as a Californian.