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Tea Party Lawmakers Complain About Rushed GOP Leadership Elections

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WASHINGTON -- As House Republicans inch closer to deciding who they plan to support as their next majority leader, tea party-backed lawmakers are grumbling that they weren't given more time to field a candidate.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) set June 19 as the date for electing a successor for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who lost his primary race in a stunning upset on Tuesday night. Boehner announced the election date on Wednesday afternoon, right around the time that Cantor announced he would step down from his post July 31. But that was hours after two top Republicans had quietly begun building support in their bids for majority leader. A handful of other Republicans also launched bids for majority whip, another slot that may open up.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Thursday that snap elections are unfair because they "stack the decks," and said Boehner owes conservatives a chance to coalesce around a candidate opposed to any form of immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. King and likeminded members view such a pathway as granting "amnesty."

"We're asking for a delay on this vote so there's time for this conference to come to its senses and evaluate all the opportunities we have going forward," King told reporters. "In all of the leadership positions that are here, I will not vote in the affirmative for any candidate who has advocated for amnesty."

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) echoed King's complaints and said part of the reason Cantor lost his race is because he wasn't solidly opposed to immigration reform.

"People want to have a leader that doesn't support amnesty," she said. "It's wrong to have an election without even one candidate who stands for securing our borders and rejecting amnesty."

Neither King nor Bachmann could point to others who shared their frustrations, but Bachmann said the two of them are "absolutely" trying to build more support for a delay, and hope they'll be able to seek out better candidates.

One option might be Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who is mulling a run for majority leader. Labrador has been a frequent critic of GOP leadership and said earlier this year that Boehner should lose his speakership if he moves forward with immigration reform.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) also has support among conservatives who believe he's their best chance to shake up the race. Jordan, the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee took his name out of the running on Wednesday, but a "Draft Jim Jordan" Twitter handle surfaced Thursday and sent out a handful of tweets touting his conservative credentials.

King said Jordan is his top choice for a leadership post.

"He's rock solid on these issues," he said. "He's a constitutional conservative ... and he's not intimidated by others."

To be sure, both candidates currently in the running for majority leader -- House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) -- identify as conservative Republicans. Sessions' campaign is built entirely around his track record as a conservative and his focus on tightening border security.

But King said Sessions raised red flags last year when he made remarks in support of a Senate immigration reform bill that included a pathway to citizenship.

"Pete has made some statements that cause one to be concerned," he said.

By Thursday evening, there was talk of Sessions potentially dropping out, which would clear the field for McCarthy, at least for the time being.

Boehner acknowledged Thursday that while some members might quibble with the abbreviated timeframe, it is in the party's best interest to move things along.

"I am sure some will argue it was too soon, some will argue it is too long," he said during his weekly press briefing. "But it is important we resolve this issue in a fair amount of time so that we can do the work that we were elected to do."

A GOP leadership aide said any member who doesn't like the current candidates is welcome to run.

"If you are a Member of Congress and you feel your views aren't being represented – jump in!" the aide said.

The Huffington Post asked Bachmann why she didn't decide to run for the leadership post herself. She said her retirement in a few months means she wouldn't be a good fit.

"I'll be gone. The conference is looking for longevity, and I completely understand that," she said.

Still, she added, "I'm pretty good at raising money. That's what we need."

Sabrina Siddiqui contributed reporting.

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