WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is pitching himself for the role of the next speaker of the House and says he’s the leader who will know how to pick his battles — and bring everyone to the table.
McCarthy laid out his vision for the speakership Tuesday in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead,” saying he wouldn’t shy away from a fight, but he wouldn’t enter one that was futile.
“I’m willing to fight but I want to fight to win,” McCarthy said when asked about the call by some Republicans to force a government shutdown fight in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood.
McCarthy said he supports a “bottom-up” approach to leading, where Republicans first put forward their policies and plans, use committees to do the groundwork, and then let that effort result in winning a vote on a policy.
He pointed to the controversy over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while in office — which has at times overshadowed her presidential campaign — as an example of how the process can work.
“When you look at the poll numbers of Hilary Clinton — they’ve dropped. Unfavorable is pretty high because people say they don’t trust her,” McCarthy said. “They don’t trust her because what they found out about the server and everything else. Would you ever have found that out had you not gathered the information from Benghazi Select Committee? So if we really want to be able to show what this Planned Parenthood has done … have the select committee get all the information, all the hearings. Win the argument to win the vote.”
The California Republican, who is currently John Boehner’s No. 2, has a large base of support in his effort to win the speakership and is the clear front-runner for the position.
But McCarthy will only say that he’s in good shape, declining to talk about how many votes he’s secured.
“I feel very good about where I’m at. I never talk about the vote count,” McCarthy said.
He has been conducting a disciplined outreach effort to recruit support for his run, and he’s positioning himself as an inclusive leader.
He even had kind words to say for Democrats and Texas firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been one of the leading voices trying to galvanize House conservatives behind a shut down strategy.
“I believe in Reagan’s 11th commandment: I won’t speak ill of anybody,” McCarthy said. “Ted Cruz is a friend of mine; he’s a senator. Ted Cruz is healthy for this party, just as every other Republican is healthy for this party. And I want more people to be part of the Republican party.”
He continued to say that the “culture” he’d set as speaker is that “everybody gets a voice” — even the opposing side.
“(Democrats are) elected to Congress, you’re not going to shut their voice out,” McCarthy said. “I may philosophically disagree with them sometimes. (But) we have the majority here. I’m sure our philosophy could win because that’s what America voted for.”
Current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is the front-runner to move into the speaker’s office. Current GOP No. 3, Rep. Steve Scalise, is making a play for McCarthy’s majority leader spot, but faces a challenge from Rep. Tom Price, who is already lining up key endorsements.
That leaves a race for whip — the No. 3 position — up for grabs.
Here’s a look at who’s in who’s out in the race to run the House GOP.
In: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, California
McCarthy, 50, is the favorite to win the spot, having moved quickly in Boehner’s wake to reach out to his colleagues and shore up support among both the moderate and more conservative arms of the party. It would be a fast ascent for the California Republican: He was first elected to Congress in 2006 and after two terms, in 2011, rose to the No. 3 spot in leadership. In August 2014, after former Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor was defeated in his primary race, McCarthy moved into the majority leader spot, which has given him the inside track on replacing Boehner.
McCarthy is positioning himself as a leader that can unite the party, from the conservative firebrands to the more moderate Republicans. He’ll need 218 of the 247 House Republicans to assure his spot as speaker, meaning he can only lose 29 votes from his colleagues.
In: Rep. Daniel Webster, Florida
Webster, 66, is the only other declared candidate challenging McCarthy. The Florida Republican was elected in the 2010 wave election. He has run for speaker before — challenging Boehner in January. Though Webster came in second to Boehner, he only got 12 votes from his colleagues. (After challenging Boehner, Webster was removed from his assignment on the influential House Rules Committee.)
Out: Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin
Despite being popular among his colleagues and a prominent Republican voice, the former GOP vice presidential candidate is skipping a run for leadership. Ryan, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, put out a statement backing McCarthy, calling him an “effective leader.”
Out: Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas
The House Financial Services Committee chairman quickly ruled out a bid for any leadership positions, putting out a statement backing Rep. Tom Price for majority leader, as well.
In: Rep. Steve Scalise, Louisiana
Scalise, 49, is the current House majority whip, a position he’s held since 2014 after Cantor’s departure resulted in McCarthy’s moving up. Scalise won the three-way race by campaigning to represent conservatives. Scalise was first elected to Congress in a special election in 2008 and served as the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee before winning the No. 3 leadership spot.
In: Rep. Tom Price, Georgia
Price, 60, chairs the powerful House Budget Committee and has moved quickly to build support to challenge Scalise for the majority leader position. Elected in 2004, Price has earned a reputation as a fiscal conservative. He has already locked up important endorsements from Ryan and Hensarling for his bid to be majority leader, a move that edged out one of his potential challengers, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the current No. 4 in House leadership, who had been considering a run.
Out: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington
The House Republican Conference chair, McMorris Rodgers had begun making calls to mount a bid for majority leader, a move that would have leapfrogged her into the No. 2 spot. But she never announced a run, and on Monday night said she would remain in her current leadership position amid the crowded field.
Out: Rep. Pete Sessions, Texas
Sessions opted to run for whip over majority leader, he told CNN on Tuesday. He first announced the move in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Out: Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina
Prominent lawmakers including Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Mia Love, had called for the firebrand Gowdy to run for Majority Leader. Gowdy has gained notoriety in the party as the chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which has been investigating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But Gowdy says he’s not running.
“I’ve never run for any leadership position and I’m not going to start now,” he said Tuesday.
In: Rep. Pete Sessions, Texas
Sessions, 60, has been in office longer than many of the lawmakers jockeying for a spot on leadership. The Texas Republican was first elected in 1996 and is the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. Sessions sent a letter to colleagues making his pitch Tuesday, saying he would set the party on “the right path to fight for our conservative principles” and citing his leadership of the National Republican Congressional Committee leading up the wave election in 2010, according to a copy obtained by the Dallas Morning News
In: Rep. Dennis Ross, Florida
Ross, 55, was first elected to the House in 2010. He announced his whip run in a statement on Monday, saying he is looking to “advance our conservative cause in a positive way by passing legislation that forces the President to either sign bills into law or explain to the American people why he vetoed them.” He has been ranked among the 15 most conservative lawmakers by National Journal.
In: Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Oklahoma
Mullin, 38, is one of the younger candidates for leadership. He was first elected to Congress in 2012. He has been a strong advocate of defunding Planned Parenthood.
In: Rep. Patrick McHenry, North Carolina
McHenry, 39, was first elected to Congress in 2004. He announced he was running on Tuesday in an email to colleagues in which he called for a “culture change” in the party. He called for “a new culture based on trust, consistency, communication, and collaboration,” according to The Charlotte Observer.
Wildcard: Rep. Peter Roskam, Illinois
Roskam has so far shied away from running for any leadership posts, but he’s maneuvered for a role in picking the next leader. He successfully pushed for the party to hold a private meeting to debate its future before holding leadership elections on Tuesday evening. An aide told CNN on Monday that Roskam is currently not making calls for a leadership position. The former deputy whip lost his bid to move into whip to Scalise.