The tea party lawmaker running for the No. 2 leadership post in the House of Representatives said on Tuesday that if elected he believes he can work with Speaker John Boehner, a man he has clashed with repeatedly in the past.
Rep. Raul Labrador, one of the House's more conservative Republicans who has only been in the chamber since 2010, has made a name for himself in part by being a rebel against Boehner's more moderate brand of Republicanism.
Labrador was among a dozen lawmakers who declined to vote for Boehner's re-election as speaker in 2013, and predicted recently that Boehner might choose not to run for the speaker's job next year.
But last week Labrador decided to run in a party election this Thursday for House Majority Leader, a job that would make him Boehner's deputy at least for a while. Labrador said on Tuesday he thinks he and Boehner can get along.
"If he stays I can work with him and I think that would be good, and I think we can have a good relationship," Labrador, who is from Idaho, told reporters as he left a meeting where he was appealing for the support of Republican lawmakers from Pennsylvania.
Acknowledging that he has been a critic of Boehner, Labrador said: "Good thing about the Speaker is that he's a good man and he's never held that against me."
Labrador is considered a long shot in his race for the number two leadership spot against a top deputy of Boehner's, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. McCarthy is currently the party's whip.
Labrador, 46, was elected to Congress in the tea party populist wave of 2010. Since then he has often been a critic of Boehner's leadership, telling the Pacific Northwest Inlander last year that Republicans "need to be a little bit bolder and stronger" in their dealings with Democrats.
Labrador has also said that Boehner should lose his Speaker's gavel if he pursues immigration reform this year, something Boehner has said he would like to do and mocked conservatives for opposing.
The majority leader's post opened up last week after Eric Cantor of Virginia announced he was stepping down following his shock primary election defeat on Tuesday to a tea party activist.
On Tuesday after meeting the Pennsylvania delegation, Labrador said it was important for Republicans to "let the American people know what we stand for, the four or five things that we as Republicans would do, not only if we have the House, but we have the Senate."
But Labrador may not have convinced the Pennsylvanians. Two of the lawmakers said the 13-member delegation was inclined to vote for McCarthy in what will be a secret ballot vote Thursday for the majority leader job.
"They're all good quality people, good quality candidates," said Rep. Jim Gerlach after the group met Labrador as well as two of the three candidates for party whip. They had met McCarthy last week.
"But on the leader position, as a group, we all generally thought that Kevin was the better candidate," Gerlach said.
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