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Why Shimkus is conflicted about supporting Roskam for whip post

WASHINGTON — Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., is not pledging to support the bid of Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., to move up to House whip, a surprising position since usually in leadership elections, all the homestate members rally around their own. House Republicans will vote for new leaders on June 19 in the wake of the defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., which no one saw coming. The reason that Shimkus is on the fence is that Roskam’s rival for the whip job, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., is Shimkus’ roommate.

Shimkus owns a townhouse in Southwest Washington, near the city’s marina.

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.

But even with roommates, lawmakers who own homes like to rent to friends, and Shimkus and Scalise are buddies. Scalise is the chairman of the Republican Study Committee — which seeks to advance a conservative social and economic agenda — and Shimkus is a member of the group. But so is Roskam, who is the chief deputy whip looking for a promotion.

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When I interviewed Shimkus on Wednesday, he was not taking a stand in the intramural contest.

Shimkus told me he and Roskam talked near lunchtime on Wednesday, but he was not ready yet to commit. That’s still the situation as of Thursday morning.

“He asked me to consider supporting him and I told him that I have to see who the field is and to make sure I know who is running for what and to get more clarity,” Shimkus said.

Shimkus rents rooms in his townhouse to three House Republicans: Scalise, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota.