Inside Kevin McCarthy’s Torture Battle to Be Speaker of the House
Kevin McCarthy has survived immediate setbacks from the release of private comments in which he was outspoken critical of Donald Trump and some conservatives in the House. Now it’s just a matter of surviving the radiation.
Aside from some disapproving comments from some of McCarthy’s most ardent critics, this week’s pro-Trump GOP conference closed the ranks around its leader this week, after McCarthy said his stated plan to ask Trump to resign after January 6 was taken out of context.
Most importantly, the former president himself has expressed support for the man he often calls “my Kevin.”
But shrugs from House Republicans could quickly turn to outrage if Trump decides he’s had enough with McCarthy – which GOP insiders in particular remain a possibility. real.
In that case, the California Republican, who has led the convention since 2019, may face an insurmountable hurdle to his long-term mission to the speaker role. And even if Trump remains on the sidelines, the GOP leader may have more problems than he realizes.
Two sources close to conservatives in the House of Representatives told The Daily Beast that McCarthy will have real difficulty in the potential Speaker vote in the House next year if Republicans perform worse than they hoped. in the midterm elections this fall.
If the GOP majority theoretically has a 20-vote advantage over Democrats, McCarthy’s critics will be hit hard, the sources said. One source noted that there are some hardliners – likely in the “high number of applications” – who will not vote for the leader, as well as 10 other rotating votes who are likely to vote. vote against him if they can turn down McCarthy’s role as speaker.
“If margins are lower than 20,” the source said, “they should be very concerned.”
Most Republicans, however, concede that the math for McCarthy taking the tip is not static. Several GOP sources told The Daily Beast that if Republicans go on a “red wave” of 30 or more overturned seats, speaker McCarthy’s vote is likely to be a coronation rather than a coronation. must be a challenge.
Much of the calculation will be based on Trump. As one Trump White House source put it, McCarthy always seems to believe he’s closer to Trump than Trump believes he is to McCarthy. One of the sources close to conservatives in the House noted that basically every Republican is waiting to see what Trump will say about McCarthy’s comments before they speak up themselves.
With Trump signaling his willingness to ignore this bit of apostasy from McCarthy, most GOP legislators were content to ignore minority leader comments — artfully and carefully.
Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), a former member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, said those remarks were “irrelevant at this point” and said “emotions are high” at the time. ”
“Trump,” Loudermilk said, “doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.”
Tapes — released by New York Times reporters Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin, as part of their upcoming book, This Won’t Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Fight for America’s Future— Presents one more hurdle McCarthy doesn’t need as he tries to consolidate control of the conference ahead of the GOP takeover slated for November.
Since the start of the congressional session last January, California Republicans have struggled to contain the toxic and toxic interpersonal political turmoil that is pervading the House. And he has faced public criticism from Democrats and mostly private jabs from Republicans for his refusal to discipline his most far-right members for they are – rhetorically – a violent rhetoric.
McCarthy’s handling of these simmering controversies has raised doubts about how firmly he will control the rebellious elements of his party if they win a majority. That is, if he tries to control them. (A spokesperson for McCarthy declined to comment for this story.)
But the GOP leader still has considerable power. He’s a good fundraiser and the party’s undisputed architect of what members expect will be a decisive victory in November. Any legislator who passes him now now risks a significant reduction in influence if Republicans find themselves in a four-year majority again in January.
A combination of self-preservation, a Trump-powered cover, and a desire not to let anything distract the GOP from their midterm message may explain why lawmakers were so quick to remove explosive recordings.
Not only did Republicans not attack McCarthy, some dismissed the whole issue as an excessive distraction, attacking anti-Trump Republicans and the press even raising it.
At the members-only GOP meeting Wednesday morning, McCarthy received a standing ovation as he defended himself. Members from the private Capitol Hill Club announced that McCarthy would be the next Speaker of the House.
A staunch Republican pro-Trump, Representative Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, told reporters as he left the meeting that he “fully” supported McCarthy. “Unless you’re a member of the press, nobody cares about January 6,” says Grothman. “I don’t see any major cracks in the conference.”
Grothman later not only forgave the GOP leader – but also went so far as to claim that he didn’t really say what he was being criticized for saying.
“You can’t believe anything you read in the newspaper today,” says Grothman. When a reporter noted that McCarthy had been taped on tape, Republicans simply said his words could have been “paired up.”
Of course, his words were not cut. And they are damnable enough to warrant stern rebuke in the eyes of the most vehement Trump-supporting Republicans.
If McCarthy’s private comments hinder his speaker dreams in any way, comments from MAGA loyalists like Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) could provide a preview version.
The Florida congressman — already one of McCarthy’s biggest critics — called him and Minority Whip Steve Scalise “weak people” after releasing audio from a January 10 call between members of the party leadership. In that tape, McCarthy and Scalise express concern about Gaetz’s rhetoric after January 6, with Scalise suggesting it may have been illegal.
“You no longer have to be a lobbyist with a $5,000 check to know what McCarthy and Scalise really think,” Gaetz said, responding. “You just have to listen to their own words as they denigrate Trump and the Republicans in Congress who fight for him.”
In addition to Gaetz, Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) —an influential former chairman of the Freedom Caucus — told One America News that comments from McCarthy indicate a “major trust issue” within the party.
Perhaps most notable for McCarthy, Tucker Carlson — who has engaged GOP leadership on a variety of topics for months — stuck with him on Tuesday night’s show, calling him a “puppet.” ” of the Democratic Party and a “secret man who, it turns out, sounds like a contributor to MSNBC. ”
A senior House GOP aide pointed to Carlson’s comments as the biggest potential liability for McCarthy, saying that “a campaign run by Tucker…would be harmful to him.”
For now, GOP veterans seem confident in ruling out any real revolt against McCarthy.
Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), a longtime lawmaker and staunch ally of the leadership, predicts that “very few” Republicans will vote against McCarthy as a Republican. Speakers.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Cole told The Daily Beast.
A source close to conservatives in the House feels that McCarthy will almost certainly be fine as long as he takes care of his relationship with Trump.
“He will meet with the Freedom Caucus, make a few verbal commitments, and 80% of them will commit within an hour,” the source predicted. “It feels like the only way to lose it is if he sets his own sights on angering Trump.”
The source also predicts that, as long as the Republicans get a relative majority, Trump will be happy to see such a “red wave” that he won’t start a war. In fact, he may even be inclined to tone down the resistance by calling the House Republicans on the fence about McCarthy – in which case, there are hardly any Republicans from denied Trump’s request.
But that assumes Trump’s support, which is a far cry from what is offered at the moment. And if Republicans win only a narrow majority, Trump may well find people to blame. As one of these sources said, McCarthy’s math problem would only worsen in that situation because he was “baiting” Republicans with the expectation of an attack.
For now, however, House Republicans are avoiding firm statements and trying to get away from the controversy as quickly as possible.
Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), one of the lawmakers mentioned on the tape by McCarthy and Scalise for his speech at a January 6 rally near the White House, confirmed to The Times. Daily Beast that the story is basically old news.
“Nothing has been revealed in the past few months, from Kevin McCarthy’s tapes, to alter his reputation among Republicans,” Brooks said.
As Brooks well knows – he recently fell out of favor with the former president in his Alabama Senate race – Trump is the only figure with the power to change the reputation of any Republican overnight. .
Doug Heye, a former top aide to Eric Cantor – a former GOP majority leader who has served closely alongside McCarthy – said McCarthy’s comments “only matter to those who are determined, people who want to cause trouble and defy all the headlines.”
Heye said he doubted that Trump would actually knife the GOP leader. But he noted that nearly every Republican follows the same rules when it comes to the former president, who wields a lot of influence over the party.
“If we knew anything about Donald Trump, the members would rush to score him,” Heye said. “But he doesn’t give points, he just takes them away. Simultaneous.”
–with a report from Matt Fuller
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