story by Ryan Saylor and Michael Tilley
With the surprise primary loss of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Tuesday night (June 10) and his announcement Wednesday (June 11) that he would resign his post as majority leader, there has been plenty of talk about who might be next in line and how the leadership shuffle could impact Congressional Republicans further down the food chain – like U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers.
POLITICO reports that Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California will run for majority leader in an election that could happen as quickly as next week. The publication said McCarthy's move would mean two positions would be open in the leadership team.
But for anyone expecting Womack, himself a deputy whip in the House, to make a move to a higher position, he told The City Wire it was was not going to happen.
“Look, it’s flattering whenever your name gets associated with a potential leadership move, no matter what the circumstances are. … But there is a tremendous trade off that you have to give when you serve in a leadership position in either chamber, and your ability to take care of your constituents.”
Womack said demands on House leaders to raise money, make appearances and keep an “awful travel schedule” require the Representative to “almost have an understanding with their constituency” that they will not spend a lot of time in the district. That type of understanding, Womack said, is not an option he prefers.
“In my calculus, my work and the commitment I’ve made to my constituents, it limits my leadership options,” Womack said, adding that he is comfortable with that limitation.
Also, Womack said his position as a deputy whip on the House Whip Team provides him the best of both worlds.
“With that (whip team), I get to be at the table for a lot of important discussions, but at the end of the day, I can come home” and see family and “hear directly from” constituents in the district, Womack explained. “If I’m in a leadership position, I’m not going to have a lot of those opportunities.”
One of those opportunities happened Tuesday when Womack provided a tour of the House chambers to a 10-year-old “young lady” from Rogers. Womack said he gets “more of a charge from that” than dealing with what is required by leadership positions.
“She was able to come on the (House) floor for a vote. … That’s the best part of my job, and if I’m in a leadership position, I can’t do that,” he said.
Womack also said that he is in the “middle of the pack” with respect to seniority on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Womack said his possibility to advance with Appropriations, and his seat on the Defense appropriations subcommittee, will have more of a positive benefit to Arkansas and the 3rd District than a House leadership post.
David Olive, founder of Washington, D.C.-based Catalyst Partners, and former chief of staff to then U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchison, said Womack is smart to “avoid getting into the Cantor aftermath and stick with the Appropriations pathway he is on.”
Olive said Womack is on the path to becoming an Appropriations “Cardinal” in the coming years.
“That would be HUGE for Arkansas,” Olive noted in an e-mail interview.
A source on Capitol Hill who spoke to The City Wire on condition of anonymity said U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the House Rules Committee, is already campaigning for the majority leader position, with fellow Texan Jeb Hensarling also a likely contender for the position. But POLITICO reports should Hensarling jump into the race, Sessions would likely step aside.
The same source said U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois has been floating the idea of running for whip should McCarthy run for majority leader as expected.