South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy on Tuesday effectively ruled out the possibility that he will make a run for House majority leader, after an influential colleague endorsed him.
“I’m not,” Gowdy, the chairman of the House’s Select Committee on Benghazi, said after emerging from a GOP conference meeting. “Do you want me to confirm it again?”
Earlier in the day, Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz tossed out Gowdy’s name for the No. 2 spot in the House.
“Trey Gowdy as majority leader would be heaven sent,” he told Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.” “I think that the Republican Conference needs somebody who can unite the body and represent us far and wide and articulate the message. …. Trey Gowdy is the best person.”
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., further dampened speculation Tuesday night after he and Gowdy emerged from a meeting with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Mulvaney said that Gowdy would “quit Congress” before accepting the majority leader post.
The competition so far officially includes only Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, of Louisiana, and Georgia Rep. Tom Price, the House Budget Committee chairman and a Tea Party Caucus member. The scramble for the majority leader post started Friday after House Speaker John Boehner announced he will resign next month.
McCarthy, R-Calif., is widely seen as the front-runner to replace Boehner, though he faces a challenge from Florida GOP Rep. Daniel Webster, one of the chamber’s most conservative members. If McCarthy does win, it would leave open his post.And that's where the toughest internal competition appears to be shaping up.
Exactly who will run is expected to become clearer after House Republicans finish huddling to discuss the division between their leaders and the caucus’ most conservative members, who helped push out Boehner. Boehner said Tuesday he has yet to decide when new leadership elections will be held.
It still remains unclear whether Gowdy would agree to serve only as a caretaker of the majority leader spot through the end of this Congress, in January 2017.
Gowdy’s office said earlier Tuesday he is “focused on the Benghazi committee and will serve in that capacity so long as the committee exists.
Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the House Republican Conference chairwoman, said Monday she will not compete for the majority leader job.
“The best way right now for me to empower my colleagues through positive change is to remain conference chair,” she said.
Scalise, as the majority whip, is the No. 3 lawmaker on the House GOP leadership team and technically next in line, like McCarthy for the speaker post. A member of the Tea Party Caucus and the conservative Republican Study Committee, Scalise became whip in August 2014.
In a letter to colleagues seeking support, Scalise stressed his priority as whip has been "to bring openness and inclusiveness into the legislative process."
Still, he has faced challenges in that role getting a firm vote count within the divided caucus, resulting in some votes on legislation being hastily pulled or postponed. One of the most recent incidents occurred in February over temporary funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
A Scalise aide on Tuesday touted several of the majority whip’s successes including during his first days on the job, without a staff, when he and McCarthy pulled together a deal for supplemental funding for the Border Patrol.
“He pulled everybody into a room and put together a piece of legislation that everybody could get behind,” the aide told FoxNews.com.
The aide said Scalise could as majority leader “advance conservative principles.” And he pointed to the House passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and the so-called “doc fix” to Medicare as other successes for Scalise, elected in 2008, and other members of House GOP leadership.
Price, a medical doctor elected to Congress in 2002, received key endorsements Monday from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.
He officially joined the competition with a letter Monday night to colleagues.
In the letter, he called for “new thinking” and advancing “a smaller, more limited, more accountable government by allowing everyone’s voice to be included."
“That is why I humbly ask for your support to be your next House majority leader,” he also wrote.
Price this past spring infuriated defense-minded Republicans by slashing money for the Pentagon from the budget blueprint in an effort to get it to balance, and some hawkish members are said to be looking to defeat him in the leadership race.
However, Price supporters says his budget added additional resources for the military because he recognized the importance of national security and worked with other committee members to craft a solution to provide additional resources to the Pentagon while acknowledging the legal limitations put in place by spending caps.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.