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updated: 6/19/2014 5:35 AM

Thursday brings Roskam's chance to move up

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  • U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican, is trying to win a vote to move up to No. 3 on the House GOP leadership team.

      U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican, is trying to win a vote to move up to No. 3 on the House GOP leadership team.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer


U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam's bid to become the No. 3 Republican in the House will be put to a vote Thursday as federal GOP lawmakers meet to pick their leaders.

The Wheaton Republican wants to become his party's House whip, the lawmaker tasked with counting votes and winning support among his colleagues for important pieces of legislation.

A win would make Roskam a key member of the Republican leadership trio in the House and put him in a job that has launched some into the role of House speaker.

Roskam now serves as the No. 4 Republican in the chief deputy whip spot, but the stunning primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia last week has caused the leadership shake-up that gives Roskam a chance to move up.

It's unclear what a loss would immediately mean for Roskam, but the new whip has the power to pick his deputy.

Votes will be taken in private Thursday afternoon, and the results are likely to be announced by the end of the day.

Roskam is vying against Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana. He has stayed mostly quiet publicly about his effort but has spent hours at the Capitol trying to win support of Republicans. He devoted the weekend to asking for support over the phone from the suburbs.

A letter he released Friday outlined his pitch.

"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," he wrote.

To win, Roskam might have to overcome some Republicans' desires to install a whip from a strong GOP state at a time when House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and likely new Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California hail from states that have voted for Democrats in the past few presidential campaigns.

Roskam, from Democratic President Barack Obama's home state, addressed that potential hurdle in his letter, promising to appoint a chief deputy from a red state.

"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."

Roskam has the support of fellow suburban Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of Winfield, but he has not secured backing from the whole Illinois delegation. U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Peoria is supporting Scalise.

Thursday's winner needs more than half of House Republicans to vote for him. If none of the three candidates meets that goal on the first ballot, the third-place finisher is eliminated, setting up a potential scramble for his supporters.

A Roskam win would put an Illinoisan at the top of the majority parties of each chamber of Congress. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is the majority whip for the Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

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