Exclusive: Sessions Not Running for Majority Whip, Seeks Reelection at NRCC

Texas lawmaker also to lead new member development for GOP next Congress.

ByJohn R. Parkinson
November 07, 2010, 6:10 PM

Nov. 8, 2010 -- ABC News has learned exclusively that Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, will not challenge Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for majority whip and has instead decided to run for reelection as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Additionally, the next presumptive Speaker of the House, John Boehner, confirmed in a statement that he has asked Sessions to lead new member development for the class of at least 84 incoming Republican freshmen lawmakers who propelled the GOP into the House majority in last week's congressional midterm elections.

"Our Republican Conference needs Pete Sessions' steady hand of leadership next Congress, and I am very pleased that he has decided to seek another term as NRCC Chairman. Additionally, I've asked Pete to take the lead for New Member Development," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "Pete's position on the Rules Committee gives him a unique vantage point to help our new members navigate policy issues and his many friendships across the Capitol will help in introducing our new colleagues to the Senate."

So far, Sessions is running unopposed for the NRCC post, which is the fifth-ranking leadership position among House Republicans.

ABC News has also learned that Sessions will also be named to the 22-member GOP transition committee announced later this morning. That committee, which is chaired by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, will work through the lame duck session to review all House procedures and structures and implement many of the proposals laid out in the GOP's "Pledge to America."

Before last Tuesday's election, some top Republican aides had privately suspected that a strong showing on election night for the GOP in the House of Representatives might inspire Sessions to consider running against McCarthy for the third-ranking post in the GOP House leadership.

But now that the election is over, Sessions says that the challenge to maintain the GOP majority has motivated him to continue leading at the NRCC through the 2012 election.

"The last two years, I have had the great honor of leading the effort to reclaim a Republican Majority in the House of Representatives. Now I have fulfilled my initial mission statement: to retire Speaker Nancy Pelosi," Sessions said.

"Despite record victories as NRCC Chairman, my vision and work is not done," he said. "I strongly believe in selling the fight, and I will be asking my colleagues to support me as NRCC chairman next Congress to strengthen our gains and advance an agenda for American prosperity.

"I look forward to leading our new Majority through the challenges of re-electing nearly 80 freshman Republican Members, navigating congressional redistricting, and maximizing a presidential election cycle," Sessions said.

With eight House races still too close to call, Republicans have won a net-gain of at least 60 seats, the GOP's greatest expansion in the House since the Eisenhower administration. As chairman at the NRCC, Sessions personally hit the campaign trail for more than 150 GOP candidates over the last election cycle.

During Sessions' tenure leading the NRCC, the committee raised more than $117 million during the last election cycle, including a single-month record $16 million raised during October, which eclipsed the previous record of $15.4 million raised in October 2002 during soft-money days.

"Pete Sessions and I have been in the trenches together for many years, and I knew two years ago that our party required his vision, skill and leadership to end the Democrats' monopoly on power in Washington and elect a new Majority that would listen to the people," Boehner said. "I am very grateful for Pete's tireless work as he has helped to guide House Republicans from the political wilderness to an historic victory for the American people."

In addition to running for reelection as NRCC chairman, Sessions will lead new member development for the freshman class of House Republicans in the 112th session of Congress.

The Texas lawmaker was just reelected to his eighth term in the House and is the second-ranking Republican in seniority on the Rules Committee, where he has served for the past 12 years.

"I look forward to leading our new Majority through an expanded policy leadership role that will enable me to shape and promote the Republican agenda among Members and across America," Sessions said.

If he is successful in his bid for reelection as chairman at the NRCC, Sessions would not only design his own policy initiatives, but would essentially be empowered to lead new members from both the political and policy sides in Congress.

"As a senior member of the Rules Committee -- which deals with every bill and amendment that comes to the floor -- Mr. Sessions will be in a unique position to assist new members with their legislative and policy initiatives, in addition to continuing to serve as a key voice on all matters at the leadership table," according to a GOP leadership aide familiar with the arrangement.

The dual leadership role is an attractive deal for Sessions, who Boehner credits as "the architect" of the Republican takeover of the House.

"Pete earned unprecedented support from the Republican Conference by transforming the NRCC into a member-driven organization. He raised the money, oversaw recruitment of the candidates, and focused a strong message for our Members and candidates to play offense," Boehner said. "As the architect for the new Republican Majority, Pete Sessions has my admiration and gratitude, and I look forward to his strong leadership in the years ahead."

Now that a Sessions/McCarthy battle for whip is out of the picture, the top leadership contest to watch is between Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and one of the most conservative Republicans in the House, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, for GOP conference chair -- the Republicans' fourth-ranking post in the House.

The GOP's leadership elections will likely be held Nov. 17, Republican aides said, one day before President Obama is scheduled to host a bipartisan meeting at the White House with House and Senate leadership on Nov. 18.

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