WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana conservative, has added a red state voice to a GOP leadership team otherwise populated by establishment-aligned Republicans from the West Coast and Midwest.
Scalise, who turns 50 next month, has been in the House since 2008. He was elected in June 2014 as majority whip, the No. 3 job or chief vote counter, in the leadership shuffle that followed the surprise defeat of then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary.
After Boehner's announcement Friday that he would resign, Scalise called him a friend and mentor and highlighted the leader's conservative credentials.
"There is no Speaker in history who has done more to defend innocent human life, to combat a lawless executive branch, and to advance a conservative governing vision for our country," Scalise said in a statement.
Before ascending to his current post, Scalise was chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of GOP lawmakers considered the most conservative in the House. In his whip campaign, he boasted about his conservative credentials and pointed out that he'd be the only GOP leader from the South, which had a major role in giving Republicans their largest House majority in decades.
He has said he sees himself as the "more conservative voice at the leadership table," capable of bridging the divide within GOP ranks.
Scalise faced questions last year about some of his Louisiana ties. Six months after his election as whip, it came to light that he had spoken in 2002 to a white supremacist group founded by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Scalise apologized for the speech and said he was unaware of the group's racial philosophy when he agreed to speak as a state legislator.
"I reject bigotry of all forms," Scalise said then.
He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., the fourth highest-ranking Republican in the House, called Boehner the "right man at the right time" and said he "led in a fair, decisive way."
The congresswoman was slipped a note before a morning meeting with Boehner to give her a heads-up about what he was about to announce. While she has not publicly announced that she is jockeying for a higher leadership position, one scenario would have her vying to replace Rep. Kevin McCarthy if he were tapped for the speakership.
McMorris Rodgers has not made any public statements about whether she would be interested in the speakership or majority leader position in the House.
Since 2005, McMorris Rodgers has represented Washington's 5th congressional district, which includes Spokane and the eastern third of the state. Last year, she delivered the Republican address following President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.
She is married to Brian Rodgers, a retired Navy commander and native of Spokane, and they have three children. In 2007, she gave birth to Cole McMorris Rodgers. Since he was born with Down syndrome, the congresswoman has become an advocate for those with disabilities. She also has two daughters, Grace and Brynn.