Washington – A major rival to U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, dropped out of the race for majority leader late Monday, but a potential new competitor has emerged in the race for the No. 2 position in the House Republican hierarchy.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Washington, announced she would remain as chair of the Republican Conference, the formal organization of the 247 House Republicans. She had been considered a probable candidate for majority leader. Her position is No. 4 on the organizational chart, just below Scalise at No. 3, and her decision to step aside could boost Scalise’s standing among Republicans loyal to the party’s formal structure, one House Republican staffer said.

But Trey Gowdy, of South Carolina, is drawing support as a potential majority leader, even though he has not declared he will seek the post. Two Republican House members — Mia Love, of Utah, and Lee Zeldin, of New York — issued endorsements of Gowdy Tuesday.

Gowdy is a popular member who chairs the select committee investigating the Benghazi attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya in 2012. He would have considerable appeal for the deep-red wing of the Republican conference.

Besides Scalise, the other announced candidate for majority leader is Tom Price, of Georgia. Both hope to succeed Kevin McCarthy, of California, who is favored to move up to speaker of the House when incumbent John Boehner, of Ohio, steps down from that top post at the end of October.

Boehner touched off the leadership scramble with his surprise announcement Friday that he would quit. The majority leader consults with the speaker on policy and manages the flow of legislation on the House floor. The whip counts Republican votes and rounds up support for the leadership agenda.

The speaker is elected by the full House in a public vote. The other posts are filled by Republican members voting by secret ballot. No date has been set for the elections, but they are expected in the coming weeks.

Scalise, 49, was elected whip in June 2014, in another shuffle initiated by the defeat of then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Virginia primary. Scalise sent letters to his Republican colleagues Monday asking for their support in his bid for majority leader, and he also convened a meeting near the Capitol Monday to tout his ability to raise money for them.


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