US & Canada

US Elections 2010: Republicans set to rule the roost

John Boehner Eric Cantor Mike Pence Paul Ryan Dave Camp Kevin Mccarthy Darrell Issa Jeb Hensarling

The Republican takeover of the House of Representatives puts huge power in the hands of a small number of congressional leaders who will shape the fortunes of President Barack Obama's legislative agenda.

John Boehner, Ohio

Minority Leader John Boehner (pronounced bay-ner) has secured the House of Representatives' most powerful position - Speaker.

Mr Boehner grew up in a two-bedroom house, the second of 12 children in a devout Catholic family. First elected in 1990, he rose swiftly, mostly because of his involvement in the so-called Gang of Seven - a group of members who exposed a series of financial scandals in Congress.

Elected as Minority Leader in 2007, the perpetually tanned Mr Boehner has gained a reputation as a fierce partisan and a skilled negotiator. Previously chair of the education committee, Mr Boehner cites the passage of No Child Left Behind, President Bush's landmark education bill, as one of his proudest achievements.

Mr Boehner, a heavy smoker with a flair for the dramatic, was an aggressive opponent of the Democrats' healthcare reform legislation. He tends to be conservative on energy and climate change issues, as well as free trade - important issues in the Ohio rust belt district he represents. He has opposed efforts to cut so-called pork-barrel spending and has been criticised for cosying up to lobbyists.

Eric Cantor, Virginia

Virginia's Eric Cantor previously served as the Minority Whip, a pivotal position charged with corralling and counting votes. First elected in 2000, the wonkish Mr Cantor is widely considered a rising star, having become whip in just eight years.

In the new Republican-controlled Congress, Mr Cantor is Majority Leader, but he is deeply ambitious and may eventually challenge John Boehner for Speaker.

Although the two men have worked together effectively in opposition, their tense relations are no secret in the corridors of Capitol Hill. Many consider the calm and bespectacled Mr Cantor, with his lilting southern drawl and fondness for the detail of policy, a useful counterweight to Mr Boehner's edgy theatrics.

Mr Cantor is an avowed fiscal conservative, making him a hero to the conservative right. He is a founding member of the Young Guns, a group of young conservative representatives working to recruit and mobilise a "new generation" of Republicans.

He is the only Jewish Republican in the current House. Although he is generally liked by social conservatives, he has more to say on taxes and government spending than the issues of family and sexuality that often preoccupy social conservatives.

Mike Pence, Indiana

Former talk radio host Mike Pence chaired the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives, but he has announced he is stepping down. It won't be the last we will hear from him though. Reports suggest he is considering a bid for governor of Indiana or even the presidency.

After taking office in 2003, he quickly put his media background to work, becoming a regular cable TV guest.

A vocal and effective advocate for socially conservative causes, Mr Pence beat Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in a straw poll at the 2010 Values Voters Summit, a leading convention for social conservatives.

Mr Pence does not always vote with his party's leadership - he opposed No Child Left Behind and President Bush's expansion of the prescription drug benefits available to senior citizens. "I am a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order," he likes to tell voters.

He has taken tough stands on immigration, government spending, abortion and stem cell research. He is more conservative than peers such as Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, and with the Republican caucus poised to shift rightward, with an influx of Tea Party members, Mr Pence's power looks set to expand.

Paul Ryan, Wisconsin

Paul Ryan, the new chairman of the Budget Committee, has fashioned himself as the leading deficit hawk in the Republican caucus. Another Young Gun, Mr Ryan is also widely considered a rising star, and he has a knack for delivering sobering economic news with a friendly, upbeat demeanour.

Mr Ryan's strict adherence to fiscal conservativism has even won him begrudging plaudits from commentators on the left, who praise his intellectual honesty.

In May 2008 he released his "Roadmap for America's Future", which he updated in 2010. The proposals are radically conservative. He would eliminate a series of taxes including those on capital gains, corporate income and estates. He would abolish Medicare for seniors, partly privatise social security and end the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides healthcare for children. Such programmes would be replaced with vouchers that would diminish in value over time.

Although Mr Ryan's proposals are unlikely to gain broad traction, they have won him praise from Tea Party supporters and fiscal conservatives.

Dave Camp, Michigan

Dave Camp doesn't have the same high national profile as other Republicans on this list. But he has something perhaps more important - the chairmanship of the enormously powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Ways and Means oversees all legislation related to taxation and tariffs. That gives the committee enormous scope to influence policy - healthcare, social security, Medicare and climate bills have all come under its jurisdiction.

Mr Camp is more moderate than many of his colleagues, and has even praised President Obama in the past for reaching out to Republicans. He is generally a fiscal conservative, but voted for President Bush's bank bailout, earning him scorn from many on the right flank of his party.

Kevin McCarthy, California

Kevin McCarthy has only been in Congress since 2007 but he quickly earned leadership positions, including chief deputy whip and a place on the House Republican Steering committee. In the new congress he will serve as Majority Whip, the third most powerful leadership position.

Mr McCarthy has been a valuable fundraiser for Republicans and has a reputation as a likeable and effective networker. He is the third member of the Young Guns triumvirate, who are viewed by some senior conservatives as the future of the party.

Mr McCarthy votes reliably with his caucus, although he did vehemently oppose both the bailout and the stimulus bills, earning kudos with fiscal conservatives.

Darrell Issa, California

Before entering politics, Darrell Issa made millions from a car alarm company he founded with his wife. Now he is not only the richest member of Congress, he is the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government, which can investigate any federal programme or policy.

If Mr Issa becomes chairman, he could potentially become a headache for the Obama administration, launching investigations into any number of President Obama's programmes.

Mr Issa is also very media-savvy, which almost guarantees that any investigation he pursues will make headlines.

Jeb Hensarling, Texas

Jeb Hensarling, a former boy scout, grew up on a poultry farm in Texas but quickly got out of the family business. Another budget hawk, he spearheaded Republican efforts to oppose President Bush's economic bailout package in 2008.

Mr Hensarling has had his eyes on a leadership post for some time, but refused to challenge his close friend Mike Pence for the chairmanship of the Republican Conference - the fourth most important slot in the House - in 2008. But Mr Pence recently exited the official leadership, paving the way for Mr Hensarling to take his conference spot.

Tea Party favourite Michele Bachmann of Minnesota had also cast her hat in the ring for the conference job, but, after realizing that Mr Hensarling had the votes, dropped out of the competition and thus avoided a potentially nasty internal struggle between new Tea Party-backed members and more established Republicans.

Other names to watch

Texan Pete Sessions was the toast of the Republican caucus after steering the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to a 61-seat gain in the mid-terms. But his lauded performance as NRCC chair wasn't enough to win him the job he wanted - Republican whip. He will remain at the NRCC's helm for another term.

The newly-elected members, many of them backed by the Tea Party movement, also want a seat at the table. They will get two - Tim Scott from South Carolina and Kristi Noem from South Dakota will serve as representatives of the freshman class in Republican leadership meetings.

Hal Rogers from Kentucky was tapped to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee, which decides how the House spends money.

Fred Upton from the heavy industry state of Michigan will become chair of the influential Energy and Commerce committee, which not only has jurisdiction over climate change but is critical to the healthcare debate and any inter-state or foreign trade.

Spencer Bachus from Alabama takes over from liberal Barney Frank as chair of the Financial Services Committee. He wants to pare back the sweeping financial reform that Congress passed this year.

With debate over Afghanistan set to heat up in 2011, the House Foreign Relations committee will be thrust into the spotlight once more. Cuban-born Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the most senior Republican woman in the House, will become its chair.