SOMEWHERE OVER THE ROCKIES -- Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said in a brief interview Thursday night that he is considering running for majority leader and hopes to make a decision on Friday.
Labrador's comments came after Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) dropped out of the race, leaving current Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as the only candidate to succeed Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Cantor announced Wednesday that he would step down from his leadership post, following his defeat in the Virginia Republican primary.
During a four-hour flight from Washington to Salt Lake City on Thursday evening, Labrador was on his iPad messaging with fellow members to gauge the depth of his support. Labrador also huddled in the first class galley for a lengthy chat with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined them for part of the conversation.
Labrador said many of his colleagues were urging him to run on Thursday and that he is doing his due diligence to weigh the pros and cons of a bid challenging McCarthy.
"It's not something that I've been planning," Labrador said.
Labrador was elected to his seat as part of the tea party wave of 2010 and quickly emerged as a vocal and telegenic spokesman for the renegade class. As the Washington Post described him last year, Labrador spent his first two years on Capitol Hill "earning and burnishing a reputation as not just a 'no' but a 'hell no' vote on nearly every spending and fiscal bill that came across his desk."
More recently, Labrador tried to work with GOP and Democratic colleagues on a bipartisan plan to overhaul the nation's immigration laws. A Puerto Rican by birth and an immigration attorney by trade, he was initially seen as a key Republican power broker on the issue who would help bridge divides in the GOP on the subject.
But he abruptly pulled out of the "Group of Eight" immigration talks last June amid disagreements over who would be responsible for paying for health-care for immigrants.
This week after Cantor's loss, Labrador told several reporters that any hope for immigration reform was dead this year.
Ed O'Keefe contributed to this story.