Speaker of the House
After Republicans won control of the House in the 2010 off-year elections, John A. Boehner of Ohio accomplished a longtime goal, serving as Speaker in the 112th Congress. However, he spent virtually the entire two years that followed keeping the peace among a raucous Republican Conference that was eager to confront at almost every turn President Obama and the Democrats who controlled the Senate, on issues ranging from appropriations for the government to Obama’s health care law, and from the debt limit to taxes. Boehner’s job wasn’t easy, and although he is running unopposed and will almost certainly be re-elected Speaker by his colleagues, it seems unlikely that the 113th Congress will offer much relief. Boehner, who will turn 63 on Nov. 17, has a smaller, more conservative majority to work with. He has made efforts to find common ground, with the re-elected Obama and with Senate Democrats (who outnumber their GOP counterparts), on such issues as the fiscal cliff — the mandatory spending cuts and tax increases that will take effect in the new year if Congress doesn’t find another way to substantially reduce the deficit. He also faces the even more daunting task of tending to his party’s conservative base and the more establishment wing.
Running unopposed to return as the Republicans’ floor leader in the House, the No. 2 job, is Eric Cantor of Virginia. Cantor is a champion of his party’s right wing, and tensions between his office and Boehner’s ran high during the 112th Congress’ early days. Those disagreements seem to have been settled. Cantor, 49, is pursuing a package of rules changes intended to make his life as floor leader a little easier. Among the proposed changes is a new rule to make it easier to bring bills to the floor under suspension of the rules; previously, a bill would have had to clear a committee with a two-thirds majority to be considered under suspension, but the new rules would allow a bill to be brought up under suspension even if it passed through committee with a simple majority. This would make it more difficult for Democrats, and some Republicans, to go against the leadership’s wishes.
Kevin McCarthy, also running unopposed, will return to his position as the majority’s chief vote-counter. The 46-year-old Southern Californian knows the institution well even though he has served only three terms. His career in politics began with an internship in the district office of Rep. Bill Thomas of California; McCarthy then worked his way up to the job of district director and to a seat in the state Assembly before winning Thomas’ House seat when the latter retired, in 2006.
Of the top-tier Republican leadership races, only this one is contested. Two members of the current leadership structure are vying to replace Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, 55, who is making a bid to chair the Financial Services Committee: Reps. Tom Price of Georgia and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. Price, 58, a conservative warrior, is currently chairman of the Republican Policy Committee; he is a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, which is made up of the most conservative segment of the party caucus. McMorris Rodgers, 43, is the current vice chairwoman of the conference; she was the only woman in the GOP leadership in the 112th Congress and was an active campaign surrogate for Mitt Romney, the GOP’s presidential nominee.
Nancy Pelosi’s future in the history books is secure, as the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House, from 2006 through 2010, and as a key player in passing the Democrats’ health care overhaul in 2010. But her decision about whether to continue as the Minority Leader for at least another two years will help shape her legacy. Will the 72-year-old Californian step down now, allowing her occasional rival, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, to ascend to the position atop the Democratic caucus? Or will she stay on, hoping to build up a successor of her choosing? Democratic insiders, in the dark about Pelosi’s closely held plans, argue vigorously about which path they think she will take — but people who know the combative former Speaker well do not expect her to opt for a quick exit.
In 1975, Steny H. Hoyer’s political career took off like a rocket: He became, at age 35, the Maryland state Senate’s youngest president. But in the House, Hoyer has plateaued since he lost, a decade ago, a bitterly fought leadership race against Pelosi. He is the most moderate member of the Democratic leadership team and since that race has served as Pelosi’s earnest deputy, even as her loyalty to him has been questioned. Hoyer, 73, is well-liked in the caucus, and he maintains his own strong base of support, which includes members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Assistant Minority Leader
Whereas Pelosi and Hoyer have their respective spheres of influence, Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina is touted for his ability to connect with the entire caucus. Clyburn, 72, briefly challenged Hoyer for Whip at the beginning of the 112th Congress. Pelosi intervened, creating the assistant leader position for him. Few expect Clyburn, who is finishing his 20th year in the House, to take another shot at Hoyer, although in the past year he has postured aggressively about his ambitions. It is also unclear what the future holds for the assistant leader position, which has been criticized for being a somewhat amorphous and ill-defined job.
Xavier Becerra of California continues his climb up the leadership ladder, cruising on his way to the position of Caucus chairman without a challenge, replacing John B. Larson of Connecticut, 64, who has reached the two-term limit. Becerra, 54, is currently the Caucus vice chairman. A former chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he maintains close ties to its members. Becerra is a close Pelosi ally, but Democrats continue to chatter about an incident during the health care fight, in which he tacked to her left on the "public option" and was rebuked by her.