Florida Delegation Splits on GOP House Leadership Contests
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U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is now the No. 2 man in the U.S. House and he has a pair of Floridians, in part, to thank.
After U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., was defeated earlier this month in the Republican primary, McCarthy, who was serving as the GOP whip, quickly emerged as the favorite to move up. Last week, McCarthy defeated U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, to be House majority leader.
One of McCarthy’s earliest backers was U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla. According to Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard, the day after Cantor’s loss, Rooney was among 30 congressmen who met to rally support for McCarthy. Rooney also helped round up votes for McCarthy, serving as a whip for the California Republican.
Rooney even sang McCarthy’s praises to the Washington Post. Looking back to 2009 when he first came to Congress, Rooney noted that McCarthy was quick to reach out to him and other new members.
But Rooney wasn’t alone in the Florida delegation in pulling for McCarthy. Before the Republicans caucused on Thursday, two congressmen and one congresswoman -- U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. -- spoke on McCarthy’s behalf. Miller, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has worked with McCarthy on numerous veterans issues.
But not every member of the Florida delegation was on board. U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., weighed in on Thursday after the vote and said he backed Labrador over McCarthy. Yoho also tried unsuccessfully to move the vote back a week.
“Yesterday in the House Republican conference I introduced a motion to delay the vote for the majority leader of the Republican Party for one week,” Yoho said after the vote. “I did this so we would be able to do our due diligence and have the needed time to vet the candidates. This would also allow time for other members to enter the race and campaign. My motion was not accepted and the vote was held today. This is a critical vote, not just for the Republican conference in Congress but also for the direction of the Republican Party and our nation. This is why I believed we should have given more people more time to put their names forward for the position.
“The next majority leader stands a good chance to be the next speaker of the House,” Yoho added. “Given the importance of this vote today, we should have given it more time. The direction of our party and our nation will not improve until we have leadership that has a strong vision for America. Therefore, I supported Raul Labrador for majority leader.”
Earlier in the week, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., said he was backing Labrador.
"Raul Labrador is a conservative reformer who will stand for liberty and challenge Washington sacred cows,” DeSantis said. “He is also a skilled communicator who is capable of articulating limited government principles to a broad cross-section of Americans. I am happy to support a change agent like Raul for the position of House majority leader."
Florida Republicans also divided in replacing McCarthy as GOP whip. Yoho and U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., backed U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who went on to win the position. Ross helped round up votes for Scalise, serving as one of his chief whips. A Florida congressman and congresswoman -- U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. -- were prominent backers of U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., who was defeated by Scalise. Southerland was one of Roskam’s chief whips.
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