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What to watch in today’s House leadership races

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  June 19, 2014 at 9:13 AM EST
Rep. Kevin McCarthy is trailed by reporters while walking through the U.S. Capitol building June 11. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Rep. Kevin McCarthy is trailed by reporters while walking through the U.S. Capitol building June 11. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • House GOP to vote Thursday on two leadership posts
  • McCarthy the front-runner for majority leader; three-way battle for whip
  • Obama tells Hill leaders he doesn’t plan to seek congressional authority for Iraq
  • Faith & Freedom Coalition conference kicks off Thursday
  • Jindal has a change of heart on Common Core education standards

House leadership races: For anyone who likes Capitol Hill drama, Thursday will be a fun day. The GOP House leadership race to replace Eric Cantor as majority leader kicks off around 2 p.m. ET with nominating and seconding speeches and then votes. It’s all expected to last a few hours. How much of a favorite is California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the current whip, to defeat Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, a tea party favorite? The Washington Post and Politico already have pieces out on what a different majority leader McCarthy would be. From Paul Kane’s lead: “House Republicans are likely to trade a hard-charging Virginia lawyer with deep political ties to Wall Street for a gregarious former deli owner from California with a fixation on Silicon Valley.” The winner needs 117 votes, or a majority of the voting GOP conference, to win. Kane also notes that what to watch really is how big a number McCarthy gets: “The belief now is that if McCarthy can put up an overwhelming victory — approaching 200 votes or more out of 233 Republicans — it will give him and Boehner a bigger mandate to push their vision without as much fear of retribution from the right flank.”

Whip it, whip it good: If McCarthy wins, the contest to replace him as whip kicks off immediately with nominating and voting beginning right after the announcement. Campaigning for that race, though, has been underway for a week. It pits Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam, the current chief deputy whip, against Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, in a match-up that hasn’t been without some back-biting, name-calling and second-guessing. Politico notes that hard-liners aren’t 100 percent pleased with Scalise. They’re critical, for example, of his vote in FAVOR of flood insurance. It will be interesting to see how the candidacy of Indiana Rep. Marlin Stutzman affects the race and if it pushes Roskam and Scalise into a second ballot.

Obama outlines Iraq options for Hill leaders: President Barack Obama told House and Senate leaders Wednesday that he did not plan to seek congressional approval for potential military actions in Iraq. Following the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters on Capitol Hill that the president “indicated he didn’t feel he had any need for authority from us for steps that he might take.” McConnell added that Mr. Obama told the leaders “he would keep us posted” and described the meeting as “a good discussion.” A senior Democratic aide briefed on the meeting said McConnell’s comments mischaracterized the tone and substance of the session. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., released a statement after the meeting that said the president “is not currently considering actions that would require congressional approval but was very clear that he would consult with Congress if that changed.” A White House readout of the meeting said the president updated Reid, McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on efforts to get “Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian agendas” and “options for increased security assistance.” Pelosi concurred with Reid’s assessment that the president does not need “further legislative authority” to pursue the options outlined Wednesday. White House press secretary Jay Carney said the only step the president has ruled out “is sending U.S. troops back into combat.”

Kaine & McCain weigh in: On Wednesday’s NewsHour, Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and John McCain, R-Ariz., gave their takes on whether the president needs to seek congressional approval. Kaine said the president “can act in the case of an emergency without a vote” but would then “need to come back to Congress” for a vote. For his part, McCain said the president does not need permission “depending on what the emergencies of the moment are.” And McCain called for at least some “boots on the ground.”

Republicans split over Iran help: McCain also rejected suggestions that the U.S. work with Iran to stabilize the situation in Iraq. “I do not in any circumstances want to deal with Iran,” McCain said. At a Senate hearing earlier Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., acknowledged “strategic differences” between the U.S. and Iran, but suggested some level of communication “makes some sense … so they don’t shoot us down, and we don’t bomb them.” Graham added: “This is a time where the Iranians in a small way might help, given their behavior. I know exactly who they are. They’re not repentant people at all. They’re thugs and killers. But we are where we are.”

2016 watch – Another conservative confab: The Faith and Freedom coalition’s annual convention kicks off Thursday at a Washington hotel and features McCarthy (Friday) and several potential Republican 2016 hopefuls over the next two days. Thursday’s lineup, speaking between noon and 1:30 p.m. ET are Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. McConnell is slated to speak at a Capitol Hill reception. (Eric Cantor is also still listed on the schedule.) Friday, speaking between 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ET are: Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Herman Cain and McCarthy. Some of the side panels include: “The War on Christianity,” “The New War on Poverty,” and others dealing with big data and education reform.

Jindal’s reversal on Common Core: Speaking of education reform, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order Wednesday instructing the state’s department of education to roll back the Common Core educational standards. He said Louisiana should “develop our own standards, our own test.” He added, “We’ve got to take a stand” and make sure we don’t “give up” power to the federal government. “At some point you have to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” he said. “This is where we are drawing the line in Louisiana.” That’s some tough talk from a man who was once a champion of Common Core and brought the standards to the state. “Most states adopted the standards, and Jindal was considered a staunch supporter when Louisiana signed on four years ago,” the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes. Politico: “The governor helped bring the standards to Louisiana in 2010.” A quote from Jindal even appears in a promotional video for the standards put out by the US Chamber of Commerce: “Adopting the Common Core State Standards…will raise expectations for every child.” The change here is breathtaking. The irony — and frankly, hypocrisy — is that many Republican governors helped write the standards through the National Governors Association. But once it was picked up as a good idea by President Obama’s administration, it became anathema for the Republican base (along with “amnesty”). It’s not likely, though, that if Jindal runs for president, the conservative base will forget where he originally stood on this.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1951, President Harry Truman signed the Universal Military Training and Service Act, which extended Selective Service until July 1, 1955. How else did the act change military service? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Wednesday’s trivia: In 1985, TWA Flight 847 was held hostage; where did the plane originally take off from? The answer was: Athens

LINE ITEMS

  • At 2:15 p.m. ET, President Obama will award Corporal William “Kyle” Carpenter, a retired Marine, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Corporal Carpenter will receive the medal for his courageous actions while serving as an Automatic Rifleman in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

  • Facing partisan gridlock, President Obama has bypassed Congress by using executive actions on issues like equal pay, student loans and carbon pollution. But each order faces backlash that the president has overstepped his power. NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown spoke with Jonathan Turley of The George Washington University and Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice on the subject.

  • Louisiana’s multi-candidate race for Senate could put off determining which party holds the power in the upper chamber of Congress.

  • Mississippi native and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Brett Favre cut an ad for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in support of veteran Sen. Thad Cochran in the June 24 GOP runoff against state Sen. Chris McDaniel. “When it comes to our state’s future, Mississippi can win, and win big with Thad Cochran as our strong voice in Washington,” Favre says in the spot.

  • Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant stumped with Cochran Wednesday, saying he hasn’t forgotten the things the senator has done for the state, while Cochran, asked about encouraging Democrats to vote in the runoff, said, “the more the merrier will prevail in this election.”

  • In an interview with USA Today, Dave Brat’s Democratic challenger, Jack Trammell, told Susan Davis: “I like my chances.”

  • New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown is out with a new ad featuring his sister, who talks about Brown protecting her from abusive stepfathers.

  • Ted Cruz stars in a new ad calling for Oklahomans to vote for tea party candidate T.W. Shannon for Senate.

  • Generation Opportunity, a nonprofit advocacy group tied to Charles and David Koch, hits Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in an ad geared toward young voters.

  • Rep. Jack Kingston’s first TV ad of the GOP runoff is reminiscent of his primary spot tying David Perdue to Mr. Obama and follows Perdue’s first post-primary TV hit against Kingston.

  • Among Senate Democrats, many are ready for Hillary, but no one wants Joe.

  • Over snowmobiling and chainsawing, National Journal’s Marin Cogan catches up with former Montana governor and potential presidential candidate Brian Schweitzer. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

“Don’t hold this against me, but I’m going to blurt it out. How do I say this … men in the South, they are a little effeminate. They just have effeminate mannerisms. If you were just a regular person, you turned on the TV, and you saw Eric Cantor talking, I would say—and I’m fine with gay people, that’s all right—but my gaydar is 60-70 percent. But he’s not, I think, so I don’t know. Again, I couldn’t care less. I’m accepting.”

  • In New York’s 13th Congressional District, Rep. Charlie Rangel and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat are dueling over white voters, who make up a minority in the district but represent enough to make a difference in a contest that was decided by less than 1,100 votes last cycle.

  • White House Press Secretary Jay Carney held his last press briefing Wednesday.

  • Thirty-three-year-old businessman Nate Morris is the fundraiser, adviser and friend at Sen. Rand Paul’s side. Understanding the former “Bush Maverick,” National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher writes, “what he believes and how he operates—tells you a lot about the new Rand Paul.”

  • After only a day on the job, the campaign manager for New Mexico Attorney General Gary King’s gubernatorial bid was fired for tweeting inappropriate comments about women.

  • News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch urged American legislators to move forward on immigration reform in a Wall Street journal op-ed Wednesday.

  • NPR reports that federal officials plan to house undocumented immigrant children in the dorms of the now-closed St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Va. The news is being met with criticism from locals.

  • The Washington Post’s Neely Tucker profiles Cate Edwards, the eldest daughter of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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