If Rep. Kevin McCarthy is elected House majority leader next week, Republicans will have picked a No. 2 with a less conservative voting record than his predecessor.
The American Conservative Union gave McCarthy, the majority whip who has represented California in the House since 2007, a 72 score for his House votes last year. That was down from 86 the previous year.
McCarthy's scores were far lower than those of Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, who announced Wednesday that he was stepping down as majority leader on July 31 after his GOP primary loss to newcomer David Brat on Tuesday.
The ACU scored Cantor at 84 on his voting record last year. That was down from 95 the year before.
A perfect score by the organization would be 100.
That score was given to Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador,
who declared his candidacy for the spot on Friday. His score was up from 96 the previous year.
The race to succeed Cantor took a new turn with Labrador's entry. McCarthy had seemed assured of being elected after two conservative Texas Republicans, Reps. Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling, dropped out of the running on Thursday.
that he was bowing out in the name of party unity, while Hensarling said that being House majority leader was "not the right office at the right time for me and my family."
Labrador, 46, who was born in Puerto Rico but has represented Idaho since 2010. He was swept into office in the tea party wave that brought in Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
He was among a dozen Republicans who declined to vote for House Speaker John Boehner in 2013.
"We must restore the proper role of government to create space for free markets and civil society to prosper and flourish," Labrador said in a statement announcing his candidacy for the position. "Republicans must be willing to take these challenges head on with new leadership, fresh ideas, and a different approach."
Regarding their ACU scores, McCarthy's was lowered last year because of seven votes that conservatives disagreed with, The New York Times
reports. They totaled three more than Cantor.
Those three included McCarthy’s opposition to an amendment requiring that emergency spending for Hurricane Sandy relief be offset by budget cuts elsewhere, for his bipartisan version of the Violence Against Women Act that passed the Senate and cleared the House with the help of Democrats, and against an amendment to the farm bill that would have ended the Market Access Program, which promotes American agricultural exports.
"Mr. McCarthy has a voting record that is not nearly as conservative as Mr. Labrador's — and, frankly, it is to the left of Eric Cantor's," Dan Schneider, the ACU's executive director, told Newsmax. "We've seen Eric Cantor's record decline in recent years, and we've seen McCarthy's decline even worse.
"Clearly among these three, Congressman Labrador is the strongest conservative."
With McCarthy's pursuit of the No. 2 spot in the House, three Republicans are vying to succeed him as whip. They are Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois and two conservatives, Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana.
The ACU scored Roskam at 76 last year, down from 80 the previous year. Scalise scored a perfect 100 both years, while Stutzman scored 96 last year, down from 100 in 2012.
Despite this uncertainty within the top GOP leadership, one thing is definite, the Times reports: Boehner will seek the speakership at the end of the year.
"I didn’t want to leave any doubt," he told the Times.
Boehner, who represents Ohio, said he told Republicans at their closed-door session on Wednesday before Cantor announced his resignation, the Times reports.
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