The allegiances of House GOP freshmen quickly tested in leadership races

The incoming freshman class of House GOP lawmakers is getting their first taste of Capitol Hill politics with calls from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others trying to shore up support for leadership elections.

The newbies, once their support is guaranteed, are then deployed to lobby fellow freshmen to get the troops in line behind Mr. McCarthy’s bid for speaker and lawmakers seeking other leadership posts in the House Republican Conference.

One recently elected Republican who plans to support Mr. McCarthy for speaker in a GOP-run House said he’s been lobbied by several incoming freshmen to support various leadership candidates.

“I’m with McCarthy for speaker,” Rep.-elect Mike Lawler of New York, who ousted Democratic Congressional Campaign Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney in the election, told The Washington Times.

He described an onslaught of lobbying by other newly elected members but said he was backing most of the current conference leadership, including Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana for majority leader and Rep. Elise Stefanik for conference chair.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus are angling for a more conservative lawmaker to challenge Mr. McCarthy, but the minority leader has an edge with most of the reelected members and new GOP members who he helped win their races with hundreds of millions of dollars spent by his super PAC.

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a member of the Freedom Caucus who has emerged as a top critic of Mr. McCarthy, acknowledged he’ll be tough to beat. He called Mr. McCarthy the “Lebron James of special interest fundraising.”

“I have spoken with many Republicans in Congress and many who will join our ranks soon. None are actually inspired by Kevin McCarthy. Though many feel financially beholden to him,” he said. “In this last cycle. Kevin McCarthy and his team raised half a billion dollars in campaign money. That buys a lot of friends or at a minimum rents them.”

The speaker contest is not the only quarrel among Republicans.

The race for whip already became ugly with Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana going head-to-head with Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota who currently chairs the GOP’s campaign arm.

Mr. Banks attempted to capitalize on news reports that misinterpreted Mr. Emmer’s recent comments about working to bridge divisions in Congress as a pledge to work with Democrats, though Mr. Emmer was referring to working with various factions within a narrow GOP majority.

Two publications that misreported the remarks later issued corrections. A spokesperson for Mr. Emmer told The Washington Times that the reporters were corrected because the congressman “never said that.”

Still, shortly after the stories ran Mr. Banks zeroed in on his pitch to solely unify Republicans.

“The whip will play a very big role in doing that with Republican votes, not Democrat votes,” Mr. Banks told Fox News. “Don’t give into the radical left, but do what the voters asked us to do. Stand up to them instead.”

Mr. Banks’ office did not respond to an inquiry from The Times.

Mr. Banks has a close relationship with Mr. McCarthy and is the favorite for the position. He unveiled the House GOP’s “Commitment to America” plan before the midterm elections and secured key endorsements from his colleagues.

GOP lawmakers also privately said Mr. Emmer may struggle in his bid because the anticipated red wave failed to materialize under his leadership of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The congressman, however, refuted those claims, arguing that the party is still projected to take control of the House.

“We flipped the House for just the third time since 1954. I’m extremely proud of that accomplishment,” Mr. Emmer told reporters. “I’m happy to make my case to my colleagues for the whip role, and there obviously will be more news on that soon.”

Mr. Banks is also viewed as an ally of the GOP establishment and not the more conservative elements of the conference.

“Banks will be the first to tell you he’s a conservative and a leader. But if you believe he’ll be some champion for conservatives within leadership, please point out just one big fight where he didn’t side with leadership over conservatives,” a senior GOP aide said privately.

Rep. Drew Ferguson, a Georgia Republican currently serving as chief deputy whip, also is battling for the whip job. He is trying to build support based on his experience serving under the current whip, Mr. Scalise.

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