U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas says he pulled out of the running for House Majority Leader because he feared a bitter face-off with Kevin McCarthy could have severely damaged the Republican Party.
"It became very apparent by then that I would have to run what I consider to be an intolerable attack against parts of my party, parts of my colleagues, and I'm for unity,'' Sessions told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"I am for us coming together for where we have what I believe is not seamless, but a far tighter, well-understood agenda of what we stand for and to have our team work together.''
McCarthy, a California congressman, quickly lined up the votes to succeed Eric Cantor after the House Majority Leader's stunning primary defeat in Virginia.
Several names emerged a potential successors to Cantor, including Sessions and U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the House Financial Services Chairman. But both quickly stepped aside.
"I said from the very beginning I would run if it's something that we could win and unify our party, not run and tear our party apart,'' Sessions said.
"So there will be future opportunities, and that's what I'll look forward to.''
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Sessions believes that U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, who will run against McCarthy, has a smart conservative agenda.
"Raul comes at this from a perspective where he believes that we must start with a conservative agenda. I agree with that," Sessions said.
"He and I are far closer together on seeing that if we're going to win as a party, we have to have an agenda that the vast part of our conservative Republican support understands.
"He'll be able to enunciate that. He is well understood, he's in the media all the time, and he will have a succinct, clear message for our members to understand where he stands.''
But, Sessions added, he faces a long road to victory.
"I'm not going to say he cannot win, but what I would say is that, much like where I was, he is a later entrant, and he's going to have to go and run and run hard and run well,'' Sessions said.
One of the key issues that Labrador must tackle, one that some believe contributed to Cantor's downfall, is immigration reform, Sessions said.
"Raul has his own ideas … It's up to him to go place those,'' Sessions said.
"I'm simply saying he's a very talented, conservative, thoughtful young man. We both share commonalities, we're Eagle Scouts. So we see we're telling the truth and being honest about where our country is is very important.''
Sessions believes McCarthy is not that much different from Cantor on reform. Some believe Cantor was too supportive of the reform efforts pushed by Democrats, something Dave Brat, the tea party-leaning college professor who beat him, strongly opposed.
"Kevin comes from a district where he well gets the issue. The problem is how we're going to solve that, and what order we're going in, and how we get things done,'' Sessions said.
"I have probably no reason to believe that he's much different from Eric Cantor, but we will see. We'll let Kevin enunciate his own ideas as majority leader.
"What I would tell you is that if we do not solve this problem now, our country — not withstanding Texas — but the entire border will be far, far more entwined in a drug cartel culture rather than a free America where its citizens feel like they have the federal government standing behind them.''
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