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Handful of House Republicans eye financial services post

By Sarah N. Lynch and Emily Stephenson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The sudden primary defeat of House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor not only paves the way for a new party leader - it could also open the door for a new chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

When Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the committee, emerged on Wednesday as a possible contender for Cantor's job, a handful of Republican lawmakers began to be mentioned as a possible successor to the Texas Republican as head of the panel.

The possible contenders include Representatives Ed Royce of California, Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Randy Neugebauer of Texas.

Representatives for Garrett and McHenry said on Wednesday that the lawmakers were interested in leading the committee.

Garrett, McHenry and Neugebauer chair Financial Services subcommittees. Lucas chairs the Agriculture Committee and is also a senior member of the Financial Services Committee.

Lucas told The Hill, a Washington newspaper, that he would be interested in leading the financial services panel.

Royce is chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the most senior of the Financial Services Committee members discussed as possible chairmen.

He unsuccessfully sought the financial services position in 2010 and has been interested ever since, a House Republican aide said.

The Financial Services Committee, considered a plum assignment on Capitol Hill, oversees the activities of the major financial and banking regulators, including the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It is responsible for housing finance policy and will play a crucial role in any reforms for mortgage finance entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Lawmakers also like being on the committee because it gives them a way to help bankroll their campaigns through contributions from Wall Street.

CONTENDERS

A Republican caucus vote to replace Cantor as majority leader is slated for June 19.

If Hensarling runs, he is likely to face a number of other powerful Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, a Cantor ally who holds the Republicans' No. 3 leadership position, majority whip.

A special Republican steering committee would choose a new House Financial Services leader in the event of a victory by Hensarling, who said he is weighing his next steps.

A House Republican aide said that given the Financial Services Committee's full plate of bills and the short legislative calendar, he expects a new chairman for the panel to be selected by the end of the month if Hensarling becomes majority leader.

A change in the chairmanship would be unlikely to alter the direction of the panel since the candidates have ideological views similar to those of Hensarling.

If Hensarling became majority leader, however, more conservative financial services bills could possibly make their way to the floor.

Most notable among them is a bill sponsored by Hensarling known as the PATH Act, which would greatly reduce the government's backstopping for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"It is possible that Hensarling could even bring the bill up for a vote this summer depending upon when he became majority leader," wrote Guggenheim analyst Jaret Seiberg in a note on Wednesday.

"We believe the clout of being majority leader would be enough to get this bill through the House," he added.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Emily Stephenson; Editing by Caren Bohan and Steve Orlofsky)

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