Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.), leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee, is expected to announce later today that he will run for House minority leader, according to sources on Capitol Hill.
Pence’s announcement will come after significant Republican losses in the House yesterday. Although some races have yet to be decided, the GOP is on the verge of losing 30 seats in the House and on the brink of handing control of the Senate to Democrats.
As the conservative leader of the GOP in the House, Pence is positioned to offer a strong challenge to current Majority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio), who is expected to announce his intentions soon. Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) is almost certain to vacate any leadership role. Meanwhile, Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R.-Mo.) will deliver a major address at the Heritage Foundation tomorrow about the future of conservatism.
There is already movement among conservatives to fill the roles of minority whip and conference chairman. Rep. John Shadegg (R.-Ariz.), who ran for majority leader earlier this year, is strongly considering a bid for the whip job, according to Capitol Hill sources. And Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R.-Tenn.) is maneuvering for Republican conference chairman. The Pence-Shadegg-Blackburn ticket would offer a slate of conservative leaders for the GOP caucus.
Meanwhile, last night’s electoral defeat could spell doom for the three current Republican House leaders. Boehner tried to put his best spin on the election results, calling for Republicans to “recommit ourselves to the principles that brought us to the majority and renew our drive for smaller, more efficient, more accountable government.”
However, Boehner has a history of supporting big-government programs such as the No Child Left Behind Act—a bill he actually sponsored. Boehner also supported the Medicare prescription drug plan in 2003—the largest federal entitlement since Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency.
Blunt’s record is even worse. He’s voted in favor of both the No Child Left Behind Act and the Medicare prescription drug plan—and in addition supported the pork-laden highway bill in 2005.
Meanwhile, Pence has staked out conservative positions on fiscal and social issues in the spirit of Ronald Reagan. In a statement released this morning, he wrote, “Election Day 2006 will be remembered as a turning point in American political history. Twenty-five years after the Reagan Administration came to Washington with a conservative agenda of limited government, the American people chose a different course.”
Pence said the GOP needed to tackle “runaway federal spending” and get back to the “principles of limited government.”
Republicans had planned to elect new leaders on November 15, but even Boehner suggested that date would likely be moved. It remains unclear at this point when the leadership elections will take place.