WASHINGTON -- Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is planning a bid to become third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House, several sources said Tuesday.
The No. 2 Republican, Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, was expected to announce his retirement on Wednesday, and the No. 3 Republican, Majority Whip Tom DeLay, has indicated he intends to seek the job.
That would open the door for Blunt, the chief deputy whip, to succeed DeLay. Blunt refused to comment until Armey announced his plans, but a GOP leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonymity said he had begun making calls to seek commitments for an election that is more than a year away.
One member of the whip's organization said he telephoned DeLay and Blunt with offers of help, and they asked him to contact members of the GOP rank-and-file on their behalf. Both men said they would provide talking points for their candidacies, said Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., "and off we'll go."
"I think Tom DeLay will do a great job as majority leader, and I think he'll probably have a pretty easy route getting in there," Tiahrt said in an interview. "I think Roy has done a good job as deputy whip; he understands how the system works, and he's an independent thinker. He's not just somebody who follows the lead. He's off on his own, getting things done."
With 17 deputies and 49 assistants, the whip operation "is a ready-made organization," Tiahrt said. "I think to recreate that is difficult."
Blunt got praise from his own delegation, Republicans and Democrats alike.
"Roy has been very successful in serving the state, and he's demonstrated he can go out and line up people to vote," said Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.
Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton, whose district shares a border with Blunt's, said: "I admire Roy Blunt. I think he's a good member of Congress. I think he's responsible in representing his district.
"I just like the guy," Skelton added. "I think he's a very capable congressman."