While Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy seems to have the race to replace Eric Cantor as House Majority Leader all sewn up, the competition to take McCarthy’s position as Majority Whip is just heating up. The three-way contest between Rep. Pete Roskam, Rep. Marlin Stutzman and Rep. Steve Scalise is full of intrigue two days before voting.
Roskam, an Illinois Republican, is claiming he will have the votes needed to secure the position — 117, assuming every House Republican casts a vote. No one candidate is expected to garner a majority in the first round of voting in the secret ballot, and rumors abound that Tea Partier Stutzman may throw his second-round support behind establishment Republican Roskam in order to help Texas conservative Jeb Hensarling in January. Stutzman, who is expected to garner the least number of votes in the first round, would then be dropped from a second round, his endorsement potentially making him a kingmaker for Roskam or Scalise — the latter of whom also claims he has the votes for the job.
Why, you may ask, would Tea Partier Stutzman help establishment Roskam? If Roskam wins, the top four slots in House Republican leadership would hail from blue or purple states with no Tea Party representation. That could potentially bolster Hensarling’s Tea Party candidacy for House Speaker in the next Congress, as he could argue their arm of the party has no representation. So, Stutzman would deprive Scalise and his own wing of the party now in the hopes of helping Hensarling down the road.
Welcome to House conference jockeying, where everyone thinks five votes and two steps ahead. Francis Underwood, the fictional House Majority Whip on Netflix’s House of Cards, would be proud.
The House Majority candidates all have interesting personalities, particularly Stutzman and Scalise, who hail from the Tea Party wing of the GOP. Here are three things you should know about the next chief GOP House vote counter:
Rep. Pete Roskam, Illinois:
- Roskam was a varsity gymnast at his DuPage County high school.
- Roskam often describes himself as his party’s “listener-in-chief.” Early in his House career, he was more moderate, casting votes for bills in 2009 to tighten food safety, to impose more stringent regulations on credit card companies, and to give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate some tobacco products. He has moved to the right since his party regained control of the House in 2011.
- Last week, Roskam got a framed image of a quote hung in his office written by a famous calligrapher in his hometown of Wheaton, Illinois, Roskam spokesman Stephanie Kittredge told TIME. He used the quote, from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Rev. Charles Clay in 1790, in his letter Friday to ask for the support of other members:
Rep. Steve Scalise, Lousiana:
- When Scalise was a boy in Metairie, his parents gave him a battery-powered microphone. He rode up and down his neighborhood on a bicycle decorated in red, white and blue, playing town crier: a political career was born.
- In his office, Scalise has a low glass table featuring 13 corks—each from a champagne bottle popped to celebrate an introduced bill. His former spokesperson told TIME: “We do have a few more victories that are not included just yet.” The first cork is from July 8, 2008, when Scalise introduced The Gas Act, and the last one is from May 9, 2013, when he introduced the Full Faith and Credit Act.
- In September 2012, the House passed Scalise’s “Buffett Rule Act,” cheekily named for Warren Buffett, the left-leaning billionaire who advocates that rich folks like him pay more taxes than his secretary. Scalise’s bill allows people to pay extra at tax time to help reduce the deficit if they want.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, Indiana:
- A fourth-generation farmer, Stutzman grew up in Howe, Ind. His parents were Mennonites, a denomination of Anabaptists that shares historical roots with the Amish. When he was 14, Stutzman started raising his own livestock herd, the size of which reached almost 100 animals before he sold them.
- Stutzman attended Tri-State University (now Trine University) for two years to study accounting, but he dropped out to focus on farming. He married a teacher when he was 23 and converted to her Baptist religion.
- In 2002, on the last possible day, Stutzman filed papers to become the only challenger of a longtime incumbent Democrat in the Indiana House. He won by 249 votes, becoming the youngest member of that House at age 26. There, he was a champion of the Second Amendment, authoring Indiana’s lifetime handgun permit law, which frees gun owners from having to renew their licenses. In Congress, he has been highly critical of President Barack Obama’s proposals to curb gun violence, calling on Obama to condemn “Hollywood’s irresponsible glorification of violence.”