The House’s Republican leaders would dearly like to elevate Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington to lead the House Republican Conference, putting a female face into the pantheon of the white male Republican leaders. But standing in their way is Representative Tom Price of Georgia, one of the most conservative members of the House, who has lined up some big guns in his quest for the fourth-ranking post in the House Republican conference.
The most important of those guns, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the defeated Republican vice-presidential nominee, showed no sign of retreat Tuesday in a letter sent to colleagues endorsing Mr. Price.
“In the House of Representatives, we have an obligation and a real opportunity to produce and promote a positive and principled agenda for the American people,” Mr. Ryan wrote. “Over the past two years, we have offered bold solutions to our fiscal and economic challenges. We must not let up.”
The McMorris Rodgers-Price clash could set the tone for the coming Congress. Lawmakers arrived Tuesday for the lame-duck session amid an atmosphere unsettled by Democratic victories. Democrats were giddy as children on the first day of school. Republicans vacillated between notes of contrition and defiance. And the shape of the 113th Congress is only starting to come into focus.
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, said she would announce on Wednesday morning whether she would seek another term in that post or step aside. And Senator-elect Angus King of Maine, an independent, said he was likely to say Wednesday which party he would caucus with.
Newly elected lawmakers alternated between being brash and press-shy. Patrick Murphy, the 29-year-old Floridian who apparently defeated Allen West, the Tea Party hero, was the only incoming House Democrat handed the microphone at an event introducing the large new Democratic class, and he hailed his still-disputed victory as a call for bipartisan cooperation. Meantime, Mr. West has refused to concede.
Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, perhaps the biggest star of the incoming class of Democrats, blew past a throng of reporters on her way to a lunch for new senators, using Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin as a shield.
“Pretend you’re talking to me,” Ms. Warren told her new colleague.
But for a party still grappling with the meaning of its losses, the vote by incoming House Republicans on who will lead their conference is gaining outsize importance. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, trying to clear the path for Ms. McMorris Rodgers and head off a divisive fight, offered Mr. Price the post of chairman of the House Republican leadership. It is not a marquee position, but it has been held by figures like Rob Portman, now an Ohio senator. But Mr. Price declined.
Instead, he set out to line up the House’s most ardent conservatives behind him. In a letter also released Tuesday, the outgoing Republican conference chairman, Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, and the governor-elect of Indiana, Representative Mike Pence, also threw their support behind Mr. Price.
“These times demand strong, principled leadership in order to put our nation back on the path toward greater success and opportunity,” they wrote in their letter. “Republicans have made a commitment to the American people to put forth solutions that speak to these challenges — solving them, not simply managing them.”
Ms. McMorris Rodgers has her own slate of heavy hitters, largely from the party’s establishment. Allies say she has the support of 15 committee chairmen, including Representatives Fred Upton of Michigan of the Energy and Commerce Committee; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Peter King of New York of the Homeland Security Committee; and Darrell Issa of California of Oversight and Government Reform.
Representatives Pat Tiberi of Ohio and Tom Cole of Oklahoma — both close allies of the speaker — are heading Ms. McMorris Rodgers’s vote-counting operation. And she has the support of Representative Tim Scott of South Carolina, now the House Republicans’ most prominent African-American.
In her pitch to colleagues, Ms. McMorris Rodgers has spoken of her “bold vision” for conservative reform, but she has also emphasized more basic details, down to the money she has raised for Republican election efforts, her work on behalf of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and her authorship of legislation to rescind a $100 billion line of credit for the International Monetary Fund that has been “used to bail out Greece and the European Union.”
Original article on The New York Times