WASHINGTON — Before heading into the vote for majority whip on Thursday, Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., met with his team to discuss strategy. They wrapped up in a prayer circle and a reading of Proverbs 21:31, a verse about being prepared for a “day of battle.”
And it was a fight within the House GOP family. Republican lawmakers were looking for someone new in the leadership mix — someone from the South, a red state and perceived as an ultra-conservative.
All added up, these factors led to the defeat of Roskam, from blue-state Illinois who failed to win the No. 3 spot in House GOP leadership.
This was Roskam’s biggest setback yet in a congressional career where his trajectory had only been up since coming to the chamber after first being elected from a west suburban district in 2006.
Roskam, from Wheaton, currently the chief deputy whip, lost on the first ballot to Rep. Steve Scalise, from Louisiana.
Scalise built a powerhouse organization that included two Illinois members actively working for his election: Rep. Aaron Schock and Rep. John Shimkus, who rooms with Scalise in Washington.
Shimkus was one of a long string of strong Scalise supporters who marched in behind Scalise as he entered the Ways and Means Committee room in the Longworth House Office Building, where the balloting took place.
Illinois Reps. Rodney Davis and Randy Hultgren backed Roskam, and the sixth member of the Illinois GOP House delegation, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, declined to say whom he supported.
Roskam looked sad and deflated when he emerged from the Longworth room.
I caught up with Roskam, and he told me Scalise “ran a great campaign. And in light of the excellent campaign that he ran, I think he is going to make a fantastic whip.”
With Scalise to be the new No. 3, the man who currently has the whip job, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, vaulted to the No. 2 spot of majority leader. The leadership contest was triggered by the surprise defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s GOP primary. He steps down from the party post on July 31.
For all the flap, the Thursday election was for two leaders who will serve only for a few months.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, McCarthy and Scalise will presumably run for re-election after the 2014 midterm elections in November.
Will Roskam run again? As for his next move, well, he was not ready to say. “Today is a time to focus with Steve and his victory, and I will actively support him and work with him to help him succeed,” Roskam told me.
Thursday marked a double defeat for Roskam, who is the chief deputy whip by virtue of an appointment, not an election.
Scalise is almost certain to pick someone from his own team to be his chief deputy. Roskam will have to vacate his ornate Capitol office and will have to adjust to a sudden loss of status among his peers.
Roskam’s departure from leadership will not have much of an impact with Illinois clout on Capitol Hill. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is the No. 2 leader in the Senate, and if and when he needs an assist in the House, he deals with Boehner.
Roskam will continue to hold his seat on the Ways and Means Committee and still has another high-profile assignment: He is on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which will hold hearings later this year.
As for friction within the Illinois House GOP ranks, Davis said, “We are all here representing the great state of Illinois and we are all going to continue working together very closely.
“The race was run, the race is over. . . . We are going to go back to doing what we were doing, which is putting Illinois first.”