Steve McCabe was elected as the Labour MP for Birmingham Hall Green at the 1997 General Election when he unseated the Conservative member Andrew Hargreaves by 8,420 votes in the Labour landslide; the first time a Labour MP held the seat.
He served as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Charles Clarke in his capacity as Secretary of State for Education and Skills (2003–2004) and as Home Secretary (2004–2005). He joined the government Whips Office in 2006 as an Assistant, and from 2007 was a Lord Commissioner to the Treasury (a full Whip). He also served on various select committees, including Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee (1998–2003) and Home Affairs Select Committee (2005–2006 and 2010–2013).
In October 2006, he applied for selection to the redrawn Birmingham Selly Oak seat, which incorporated much of his existing seat. Following the announcement by Lynne Jones, the sitting member for Selly Oak, in January 2007 that she would stand down at the next election, he became the favourite to be selected for the newly drawn constituency, and was duly selected by the local Labour party. He decided not to apply for the redrawn Hall Green seat on the grounds that its boundaries were significantly different from the existing seat of the same name.
He was re-elected, in Selly Oak, at the May 2010 general election. In 2012, McCabe underwent open heart surgery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham for a heart murmur.
From 2013 to 2015, he served as a Shadow Minister for Education as part of Edward Miliband's front bench team.