Congressman Raul Labrador told colleagues Wednesday that voting to elevate Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy to majority leader will be a break with the GOP's pledge to "reform Congress and restore trust."
"If you vote for the status quo tomorrow, you will prove that we are still not listening," the Idahoan said. "We will break out pledge and with that we may lose the ability to regain control of the Senate and eventually win the presidency."
The sophomore congressman spoke early Wednesday at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans.
I interviewed Labrador by phone after the meeting and will have a story about his view of his prospects in Thursday's vote. Labrador was upbeat and said he's been phoning colleagues until 11 p.m. Check Thursday's print edition or IdahoStatesman.com for the full report.
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Labrador's office released text of his remarks to the caucus, as prepared in advance. McCarthy, of California, is considered a heavy favorite. Labrador entered the race Friday after failing to convince two other senior lawmakers to run.
Labrador reminisced about his four years in the Idaho House and said most congressmen feel irrelevant because GOP leaders and their attaches have too much power.
"I want members of Congress to be more relevant than the staff," Labrador said. "Why are we even here if the leadership staff is going to make all decisions anyway?
"How many of you served in state legislatures — I loved it, it was the best professional experience of my life. From the very first day, I felt like I was relevant, I mattered, I made a difference. I have not felt that way here. And I know that most of you haven't either."
Labrador's full prepared remarks follow:
LABRADOR ADDRESSES COLLEAGUES AT
“I want every member to feel relevant again”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of his race for House Majority Leader, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) addressed his colleagues at today’s candidate forum. Rep. Labrador continues to build momentum in his race to unify the Republican conference and prove the conference has the talent, energy and ideas equal to the challenges of these anxious times.
Rep. Labrador’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
Let me thank you for giving me an opportunity to address you.
I have decided to be your Majority Leader – running not against anyone, but for everyone.
Immediately after I announced, Austin Scott called me. He asked why I was running and I told him that I felt that we could do better as a conference. I felt that we lacked a clear, bold vision.
Instead of fighting each other, I felt that we should unify around a positive conservative agenda. We should tell America the five things we would do if we were lucky enough to win back the Senate.
I was tired of missing my kids’ games and dances and activities to come to a place where only the leadership and a select few really mattered.
Austin said: “Raúl, I will support you; 80% of us feel like we are irrelevant.”
I want every member, regardless of what state you come from or whether you meet for lunch on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, to feel like you are relevant again.
I want you to feel like you did the first day you came to Congress. Do you remember that day? That was an amazing day filled with endless possibilities.
If you have an idea, I want to empower you to take it through committee. You will not always succeed, but I want you to feel like you had a fair shot.
I want members of Congress to be more relevant than the staff. Why are we even here if the leadership staff is going to make all decisions any way?
How many of you served in state legislatures – I loved it, it was the best professional experience of my life. From the very first day, I felt like I was relevant, I mattered, I made a difference. I have not felt that way here. And I know that most of you haven’t either.
I want the process to work. If bills pass, they must pass on their merits.
I don’t want any more SGR bills passing on voice votes, Transportation/Postal Reform deals that nobody has heard of, NSA reform bills that pass a committee unanimously and are changed and watered down in the Rules committee.
If we don’t trust leadership, how can we trust each other?
We might sometimes disagree on policy or even tactics, but if the rules are clear and always followed we will all feel like we can better trust our leadership.
We must publish the text of bills for 72 hours, that’s what three days means.
We made a pledge to America that we would “reform Congress and restore trust.” Have we kept that pledge?
Remember, we regained control of the House in 2010 because Americans believed that “Washington was not listening.”
If you vote for the status quo tomorrow, you will prove that we are still not listening. We will break our pledge and with that we may lose the ability to regain control of the Senate and eventually win the Presidency.
We can send a message to our leadership that we need to change. Electing a new Whip does not really change what we do, just merely who counts the votes.
And the best part is that if you personally like our current Leadership members but you believe that we need change - by electing me, you’re not getting rid of anyone; you’re just adding a new needed voice to the leadership table.
I stand before you feeling so blessed to have this opportunity to speak with you today. I have lived the American Dream and want others to believe that America is still the place where the dream is alive.
So today, I humbly ask for your vote to be your next Majority Leader.