House Republicans could see their most diverse conference in history sworn in in January. However, their leaders will almost all be whites.
If Republicans take control of the House in the midterm elections, the party’s top three leaders are guaranteed to be white males. In the next Congress, white men will also lead the House GOP campaign group, the National Congressional Campaign Committee (NRCC), and occupy other lower leadership positions.
California Representative Kevin McCarthy is not expected to face any opposition in his bid for House speaker, nor is Louisiana’s Steve Scalise as Majority Leader. Both are white. And three other white men—Representatives Tom Emmer of Minnesota, Jim Banks of Indiana, and Drew Ferguson of Georgia—all compete for the majority whip, the No. 3 leadership job.
The highest leadership position Republican women or minorities have reached is chairing the GOP conference—number 4 in the majority and number 3 in the minority – currently held by Representative Elise Stefanik of New York. She is also expected to remain the highest-ranking GOP woman throughout the next Congress, as white males make up all but one of the members of the Senate GOP leadership team.
The composition of the new leadership team highlights a blatant challenge for House Republicans: Even as McCarthy and other leaders claim that the growing diversity of their candidates this year and the conference will help them reach the majority, their leadership has consistently failed. to reflect that diversity.
The likely reasons, according to some Republicans: White men still make up the overwhelming majority of the 212-member GOP conference, and women and minorities have not yet built the kind of broad coalitions needed to win some of the top leadership races, as they did in the Democratic Party.
“My guess would be, they just haven’t had enough time to get their feet together and deep enough to take on that kind of role. So it is a question of time, not a question of quality. But it’s coming,” said a former GOP lawmaker who served with McCarthy, Scalise and Stefanik, requesting anonymity to speak about his party’s challenges.
“It’s figuring out how the institution works, with the right allies at the center [on K Street]across the country and within the conference.”
In a statement, McCarthy spokesman Mark Bednar noted that members elect their own leadership team in a closed internal election and that “Leader McCarthy fully anticipates our conference to elect a team that represents the ideas and values of the American people.”
But the conference demographics are beginning to shift, albeit slowly. Of the 16 minority house members elected in the 2020 election cycle, nine were Republicans, according to the Pew Research Center. That included the only two black Republicans in the room, Representatives Byron Donalds of Florida and Burgess Owens of Utah; Hispanics such as representatives Carlos Giménez and Maria Elvira Salazar from Florida, Tony Gonzalez from Texas and Mike Garcia from California; and two Korean Americans from Orange County, California, Representatives Young Kim and Michelle Steel.
And with a diverse set of nominees on the ballot in November, House Republicans will almost certainly add more women and minorities to their ranks by 2023. Republicans nominated 74 Hispanic, Black, Asian and Native Americans to participate in the midterms of November, including 33 Hispanic and 28 black candidates, according to the NRCC.
Eighty GOP women are competing in these House seats midterms.
“One in 4 Republican nominees in NRCC target races are women, just to underscore the point that House Republican women are going to build this majority and fire Nancy Pelosi,” Stefanik told reporters at a recent election briefing.
“I believe we’re going to blow this cycle past 40 ‘chosen women’ and we’re working towards 50.”
Stefanik said she was given a wake-up call after the 2018 Democratic wave election left her party with just 13 GOP women in the House, including herself and Representative Jackie Walorski of Indiana, who had been on the leadership track before she was killed in a car accident in August. Stefanik took action in the 2020 cycle and launched her E-PAC, building a national donor database and raising $4 million to date to help GOP women choose.
Stefanik, an ally of former President Donald Trump, had considered seeking promotion and entering the busy GOP whip race this fall, but chose to remain in her current position, which she took over in May 2021 after Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. , was kicked out. Donalds has made a long-running bid to remove Stefanik as conference chair, but she has the support of the entire leadership apparatus and is the favourite.
For his part, Donalds, whom Trump once called a “rising star,” has not made diversity a central part of his campaign for conference president. In a telephone interview, he spoke of having an “all hands on deck” media strategy for the conference – local, regional and national – and said he “100%” believes it is important for someone with a “principled” conservative view. to sit at the leader’s table. He is a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus.
“In terms of members applying and being elected, competence is #1. Can you do the job, that’s #1. … If you want to talk about diversity, is that generally a good thing? Of course it is. No one will say otherwise. But number 1 is competence,” Donalds told NBC News. “And I think if you asked the members if they thought I was competent enough to be the main messenger of the conference, they would say yes.”
In addition to Stefanik, McCarthy’s leadership team will almost certainly add another woman: Rep. Kat Cammack, another Florida freshman, and Rep. Michigan’s Lisa McClain are both competing for the secretary of the GOP conference. Both are favorites of leadership, and at just 34 years old, Cammack is also seen as a rising star in the conference.
But white men are expected to complement the rest of the elected leadership team. Rep. Louisiana’s Mike Johnson is running for a second term as vice chairman of the GOP conference, while Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama is seeking another term as GOP policy chairman.
The heads of the three moderate and conservative ideological GOP caucuses are also expected to be white males. Rep. Ohio-based David Joyce chairs the Republican Governance Group, the bloc of moderates formerly known as the Tuesday Group; Rep. Oklahoma’s Kevin Hern will be the next chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee without opposition; and Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania remains as chairman of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus.
Stefanik and other leaders have argued that Republican women will occupy other top roles. If the GOP takes back the majority, Rep. Washington’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a former conference chair, the first female chair of the influential Energy and Commerce Committee, while Rep. Kay Granger of Texas becomes the first GOP woman to chair the powerful credit committee.
Freshman and sophomore women will also win the subcommittee hammers, which can provide valuable experience and stepping stones for future leadership bids.
“I had a subcommittee hammer that allowed me to learn a lot as a sophomore a few cycles ago,” Stefanik said. “I will always be an advocate for our women to earn those leadership opportunities and I hope they run for leadership.”