WASHINGTON — Running behind, Rep. Peter Roskam spent Thursday looking for votes as the GOP House whip election looms next week. Fellow Illinoisan Rep. Aaron Schock is actively backing Roskam’s chief rival, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., a roommate of Rep. John Shimkus, who is not pledging support for his homestate colleague.
The June 19 contest, a secret ballot for the No. 3 House GOP job, grew more fluid and complicated with a third contender getting in on Thursday. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., joined the intramural struggle between Roskam, the chief deputy whip, and Scalise.
Roskam flew back to Chicago on Thursday afternoon after an intense day of making phone calls; holding one-on-one and group meetings at his leadership office in the Capitol; and buttonholing members on the House floor.
With House members home for the weekend, Roskam plans to work the phones for his whip campaign from his Wheaton home.
The Scalise team was claiming that they almost have the votes to win, but the entry of Stutzman could split some of the super-conservative vote.
Roskam, from Blue State Illinois, is maneuvering around the Scalise argument that the House leadership needs more Red State representation by countering that the whip job is more about being an honest broker and building interparty coalitions.
The whip vacancy was created because the current whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is making a bid to replace Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., whose surprise defeat in Tuesday’s Virginia GOP primary triggered the leadership contests.
The job of a whip and a whip team — and this is true for Democrats and Republicans — is to count votes ahead of a roll call so the leadership knows if there is support to pass a measure, muster backing if need be and above all make sure there are no surprises during a vote.
“House of Cards” fans are familiar with this party position: Kevin Spacey played majority whip Rep. Frank Underwood in Season 1 of the Netflix series.
Roskam has the most at stake in this intraparty battle.
Here’s why: Roskam is part of House GOP leadership not because he was elected to the post, as was House Speaker John Boehner R-Ohio, with the No. 1 spot, or Cantor, No. 2; or McCarthy, No. 3.
Roskam is an appointee of McCarthy, and whoever is the new whip is going to pick his own chief deputy. So it’s all or nothing for Roskam.
I’m told by someone familiar with the Scalise camp that Schock is “out there whipping for Steve,” which would put Schock in a position to be tapped for the chief deputy whip job by Scalise if he wins.
It would have been better for Roskam to dive into this contest with his five Illinois colleagues locked in and working the House precincts for him. But Scalise, whose district includes parts of New Orleans, does not have the backing yet of all the GOP Louisiana House members.
Shimkus owns a townhouse in Southwest Washington, near the city’s marina, with three other GOP House members.
It’s not unusual for lawmakers to take in roommates in order to share costs. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has lived in a townhouse in Capitol Hill with other lawmakers for decades.