Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield launched a bid Wednesday for majority whip, the third-ranking job in the new Republican-controlled House, as Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton kicked off a campaign for the chairmanship of the Financial Services Committee.
If successful, the moves could further strengthen Democratic-leaning California's clout among the new GOP majority.
McCarthy is considered a strong contender for the leadership post because of his political skills. He served as the chief recruiter of House Republican candidates in Tuesday's GOP victory. The majority whip, who will be selected by House Republicans perhaps within a few weeks, is responsible for counting votes and maintaining party discipline on important floor decisions.
"From East to West and North to South, we shattered a Democratic monopoly once thought to have an impenetrable hold on our nation," McCarthy said in a letter to Republican colleagues on Wednesday. "The tide has turned and Americans — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — have expressed the conviction that the country is on the wrong track. Americans have rejected the toxic policies of the Pelosi Majority, and have now entrusted Republicans with the responsibility of re-charting the direction of our nation."
McCarthy cited his knowledge of not only Republican members and their districts, but also Democratic-held districts.
"This will be particularly critical over the next two years as we advance legislation focused on jobs and reducing spending that faces a presidential veto," he said. "Meeting with candidates from across the country has provided me with a depth of knowledge about the remaining Democratic-held seats with center-right priorities. I will apply this knowledge in aggressively whipping to sustain a veto. If we are strategic, we can recruit a number of Democrats to break with President Obama and vote with us, or be held accountable by their constituents in 2012."
McCarthy's move isn't surprising to those who know the 45-year-old, who was elected Republican leader of the California Assembly as a 38-year-old freshman in 2003. McCarthy, who won a third term in Tuesday's election, has been serving as chief deputy to Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia. Cantor is expected to become majority leader, the No. 2 job behind speaker.
Royce will probably face a tougher race against Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, currently the Financial Services Committee's ranking member.
Royce has gained favor with his colleagues for contributing campaign funds to GOP candidates. However, he could run into concern about the number of Californians seeking to chair committees in the new Congress.
They include Reps. Darrell Issa of Vista, Howard "Buck" McKeon of Santa Clarita and David Dreier of San Dimas, who are expected to chair the Oversight and Government Reform, Armed Services, and Rules committees, respectively.
In addition, Rep. Jerry Lewis of Redlands is seeking to regain the gavel of the Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach is seeking the Science Committee chairmanship.
"With a business background I understand the importance of a limited, functional federal government that allows business to thrive," Royce said in a statement. "It is time to change the message coming from Washington and provide business with a modicum of certainty."