Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), the lead deputy House whip, vowed Friday to appoint a deputy from a red state if he is chosen next week to succeed House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
The campaign promise to his colleagues come as many in the rancorous House Republican Conference are seeking to ensure that at least one of their top leaders hails from a conservative state that has voted for GOP presidential candidates in recent elections.
Roskam is popular among House Republicans and considered one of the party's lead policy wonks, but he's from Illinois -- a deep blue state and the home of President Obama. McCarthy is widely expected to win election next week to succeed outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and he and Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) hail from states that went Democratic in recent presidential elections.
In a lengthy letter outlining his qualifications and political beliefs, Roskam defended his home state and conservative credentials.
"Yes, I am from Illinois, the birthplace of Reagan and the Land of Lincoln and I’m a passionate, committed conservative from a red district," Roskam wrote. "By definition, the Whip job is collaborative, and has to draw on relationships that transcend boundaries and groups. At this tumultuous time for our Conference, I think it is more important to have the skills necessary to line up votes than to check a geographical box."
It’s been a whirlwind week. The news around our friend and colleague Eric Cantor was surprising and difficult. I wish him and his family the very best in this next season of their life.
This transition has unfolded to create a vacancy for Majority Whip, and I am asking for your consideration and support. I will be reaching out to you personally. This is an incredibly important season for our House Majority and for the country, and I want to engage with you about my vision for how to lead our members in the House to achieve momentous victories against the Left.
I’m asking for your support because I have the capability and experience to serve at this critical time, and because I can help lead us in the battle of ideas as we fight for the direction, the very heart and soul, of our country.
In my three-and-a-half years as Chief Deputy Whip, I have worked and learned alongside you in the difficult skirmishes on spending, on healthcare, on taxes, and above all on government intrusion and heavy handedness in a dizzying number of areas of our public and private lives. We haven’t always played smart. We haven’t always worked as a team. In some situations, we haven’t scored any points, or won the match. This has been a deeply frustrating experience to watch our economy and our core values backslide under the onslaught of President Obama and Harry Reid’s class warfare and welfare state agenda. But I’m here to tell you, we don’t have to live this way.
Yes, I am from Illinois, the birthplace of Reagan and the Land of Lincoln and I’m a passionate, committed conservative from a red district. By definition, the Whip job is collaborative, and has to draw on relationships that transcend boundaries and groups. At this tumultuous time for our Conference, I think it is more important to have the skills necessary to line up votes than to check a geographical box. We can and should ensure the broadest possible voices in the Conference are heard and get the best candidate with the best abilities in the Majority Whip post. That’s why I am committing to you that should I be entrusted with the Majority Whip responsibility, my Chief Deputy Whip will be from a red state. The Chief Deputy position is essential to winning on the Floor against the Democrats, and to winning in the Congress against President Obama, it isn’t a mere bargaining chip. Additionally, I intend to organize a Deputy Whip operation taking careful consideration of regional balance to ensure robust dialogue and representation. The Majority Whip race is about the person who has the best ability to engage our Members, to advocate for conservative ideas, and to drive our colleagues in the fight to stop Obama Administration policies and to enact our smart, conservative ideals.
I’m interested in helping our Conference realize its full potential as we address the challenges we face and meet the opportunities before us. There is a brightness to our history and the opportunities that lie ahead. We are the beneficiaries of our forbearers who have passed on to us a country and a system of government that has brought more prosperity and freedom to more people than the world has ever known. That’s something to be celebrated, to be communicated, and to use to welcome people into the struggle to get our country on a better path. We have incredible members, vibrant committees, and dedicated chairmen. We can empower them to do their work, to follow regular order, and to produce the kinds of policies that will help us fight back against the Left.
As I have been on the stump in my district, I have described our Conference as having the capacity to be a heroic majority. By that I mean that as I listen to and work with the members of our Conference, I know that if we had to lose our elections to save the country, we wouldn’t think twice about it. Our colleagues would walk away from this office in an instant to make that happen. Fighting for the values and policies that will impact literally the daily lives of every single American, alongside a team with this depth of conviction, is what animates my service in the House.
In my view, Thomas Jefferson is our best example. Like Jefferson with the soaring Declaration of Independence, we need to articulate the big vision for that direction—where we want our policies and our country to be in 10, 20, and 50 years, so the American people know where we stand and what we are fighting for into the future. Short of Scripture, you’d be hard-pressed to find another piece of writing with the clarity and inspiration of the Declaration. That is clearly THE big vision. But also like Jefferson, at the same time we need to be leading our districts along the short-term path of incremental wins that it takes to achieve the big picture. Because we have seen this all-or-nothing game play out time and again, and each time we walk away with nothing.
The important connection that’s missing is the step-by-step pathway to get there. What few recognize is, almost as significant as the Declaration, several years later in 1790, Jefferson wrote a letter to Rev. Charles Clay. In it, he wrote that:
“[T]he ground of liberty is to be gained by inches. We must be contented to secure what we can get from time to time and eternally press forward for what is yet to get. It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good.”
That, my friends, is a whip card.
I’m asking for your support to be our next Majority Whip. I came to Congress to serve in the legendary Henry Hyde seat. What a huge responsibility. Henry redefined for generations what it means to be a principled conservative, scoring unparalleled victories on the most sacred of all issues we touch in our work here, the sanctity of human life. He did it by being passionate, by being outspoken, by being unyielding in his faith and conviction, and by fighting inch by inch on the field of battle to achieve a more perfect union.
I look forward to speaking with you about my plan to elevate the debate in our Conference, to listen to and incorporate the views of our members in our battle plans, and to press on in this, the right cause, at the right time, to strengthen our House Majority, to pave the way for a Republican Senate, and to lay the groundwork to elect a strong conservative as the next President of the United States.
I’m asking for your vote, and I am grateful for your serious consideration.
Very truly yours,
PETER J. ROSKAM
Member of Congress