By Seymour Klierly
As members of Congress race homeward for the annual August work period, significant changes in leadership positions are in the works. While the midterm primary elections have already caused one officeholder to transition out of a top party political position, the potential for a wave of new leaders is also approaching. Even the White House is not immune to shuffles among the top cabinet secretaries.
After being defeated by a lesser-known college professor in the Virginia Republican primary election, Eric Cantor, R-VA, announced he would step down from his role as House majority leader. The Republicans in the House of Representatives quickly held their own elections to replace the second highest ranking member. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, beat out Raul Labrador, R-ID, and took over the position July 31. McCarthy previously served as the majority whip, the third highest position, which allowed Steve Scalise, R-LA, to win the whip position.
These changes will impact the day-to-day operations of the House, which could leave a lasting impression. The leadership team, along with Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, set and run the legislative agenda for the entire chamber. The majority leader helps decide which bills are voted on the floor and the majority whip has a team to make sure the votes turn out as expected. Since the Democratic Party controls the White House and the Senate, the House is effectively leading the Republican Party.
While House Republicans were making changes to their top ranks, President Barack Obama worked to replace the head of the Veteran’s Administration. In May, Obama accepted Eric K. Shinseki’s resignation as secretary of veterans affairs after weeks of scandal regarding care for veterans. On July 29, the Senate unanimously confirmed Bob McDonald as the next secretary. He previously worked as corporate officer at Procter & Gamble and was quickly confirmed by the Senate.
“This is the type of leader that we need at the V.A. at this very crucial time,” said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “He clearly has the experience to run an organization as large and as diverse as the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
In the near future, there will be even more leadership changes in the Beltway. Republicans in both bodies have term limits for chairing a committee, which will also lead to multiple switches with the next Congress. For example, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-OK, has spent six years at the reigns of the committee, and in January he will not be allowed to stay for another term. Democrats, on the other hand, do not have similar limits for committee leadership.
The November midterm elections also give Republicans a fighting chance to knock Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, down from Senate majority leader to minority leader. If the upper chamber flips party control, every single committee will see a change in leadership. While the committee chair slate is decided by parties, the party in control is still selected by voters.
Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.