The primary defeat of Eric Cantor (R-Va.), earlier this week was one of the most shocking political upsets in recent memory. (One of the possible precedents? The defeat of Speaker of the House Tom Foley by current Inlander columnist George Nethercutt.)
And in the discussion of who could replace Cantor as House Majority Leader, one Inland Northwest name kept coming up: Spokane’s U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking House GOP leader. But Rodgers quickly informed curious minds that, this time, she wouldn’t be pushing for a promotion.
Instead, we political speculators should have been looking just across the border to the east. This morning, Idaho U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador announced he’d run for Majority Leader.
“I want a House Leadership team that reflects the best of our conference,” Labrador said in a statement. “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.”
He’ll face off against Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) – the guy who currently holds the House of Cards role of House Majority Whip.
It wouldn’t be the first time Labrador has won support for a major leadership role. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan voted for Labrador as Speaker of the House, as a sort of protest vote against incumbent John Boehner, who had kicked Amash off the House Budget Committee.
We’ve written about Raul Labrador several times, as he shaped up to be one of the most interesting players of the crop of tea-party-wave congressmen. Here’s our blog where Labrador explains why he did not vote to re-elect John Boehner for speaker in 2013. The very conservative Labrador has clashed with Boehner multiple times – he’s criticized Boehner for not taking a stronger stand when negotiating with Obama.
During the government shutdown in October, however, Labrador praised Boehner for standing his ground.
Here’s last year’s profile of the role Labrador was playing with the Republican party. Labrador was born to a single mom from Puerto Rico. His name was proposed, by both Republicans and Democrats, as a possible man who could bridge the very large cap in parties for immigration reform. (Interesting, because one of the reasons Cantor may have lost is the Cantor’s involvement in immigration reform – though McCarthy actually is more liberal on that issue, supporting giving legal status to undocumented immigrants.)
Labrador has supported giving a higher percentage of visas to immigrants studying math and sciences. He dropped out of a bipartisan group immigration group last year, complaining about language over health insurance, but more recently floated a proposal that would loosen penalties on deportees.
In an interview last year, we asked McMorris Rodgers about the contrast between Cantor and Labrador. Last year Labrador helped stop Cantor’s bill that would have established “high-risk pools” for those with pre-existing conditions, as a sort of Republican alternative to Obamacare.
“I was in favor of the legislation,” McMorris Rodgers said then. “I still believe we’ll be able to get the votes for that legislation. We had a number of members out of town for the George W. Bush library dedication.”
The legislation never passed.
More recently, Labrador endorsed Russ Fulcher over incumbent Gov. Butch Otter in the primary (Fulcher had a pretty good showing), chastised controversial Texas rancher Cliven Bundy, and told people to stop attacking the family of recently freed hostage Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Robert Costa, formerly on National Review, now of the Washington Post, has been one of the most plugged-in reporters to Republican national politics. He characterizes Labrador as a “long-shot” and reports considerable hesitation and delay for tea-party Republicans to jump in the majority leader race.
During a meeting the Capitol basement before he announced, Costa reports, Labrador “was wondering whether he should step up if no one else did.”