Kevin McCarthy has spent the better part of a decade angling to become the next Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives. A failed bid seven years ago – amid rumors and concerns – after then-speaker John Boehner stepped down gave way to Paul Ryan leading the House for two years while Donald Trump was president.
Then, the 2018 election put the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi back in charge. Ryan left Congress and McCarthy became the leader of the minority party. But, he’s been angling to get that Speaker job, and it’s finally open thanks to the midterms, which gave Republicans a thin majority in the House.
Happy new year! I'm excited for 2023. Accountability is coming. pic.twitter.com/bbm3oeud53
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 1, 2023
For weeks now, five Republican holdouts – Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs, Bob Good, Ralph Norman, and Matt Rosendale – have been threatening to tank the latest McCarthy bid for Speaker. He even prepared to go on offense, aggressively going after those who stood against him.
Conservatives demanded concessions, like lowering the threshold needed for a “Motion to Vacate,” which would make it easier to remove him from power. He has capitulated on that, but it does not seem to have made much of a difference.
On Sunday evening, McCarthy announced on a private conference call that he would give his antagonists one of their top demands: The threshold to trigger a vote ousting a speaker would shrink from half the GOP conference, as had been agreed to by a majority of the members, to five dissatisfied lawmakers. But hours later, a group of nine House conservatives issued a letter saying that’s not good enough.
That’s in addition to the five “Never Kevin” lawmakers who have already declared they’re opposing McCarthy. (Remember: He can lose only four votes if all House members cast votes Tuesday.)
But this morning, we can report that that’s not even the worst of it. We caught up Sunday with one of the GOP fence-sitters, a member who has been in the room for these negotiations. And he told us that some of these undecided members won’t support McCarthy — even if he gives them everything they want.
“The problem is people don’t trust Kevin McCarthy and a number won’t vote for him. Those are just the facts,” this lawmaker told us. “The list [of demands] that we offered was not for guaranteed support but rather the kinds of things that might move some of his detractors.”
That’s from POLITICO’s Playbook this morning, and it’s absolutely awful news for McCarthy. That’s an additional nine Congressmen, on top of the five who were “NeverMcCarthy” already, who say his concessions aren’t good enough. He’s now got 14 dissidents, and he could only afford to lose four.
I mentioned this before Christmas, but this is the continued effort of a party that is stagnant to shake off the infection that has plagued it: People looking for power at the expense of the people who put them there. The GOP has been failing to win key elections for the past three cycles, and now people are pushing back hard against the party leadership – like Ronna McDaniel and Kevin McCarthy – in a bid to force change.
There is sentiment within the conservative ranks (well-earned sentiment, I believe) that McCarthy has been too hands-off when it came to the midterm elections and that some of the issues of candidate quality on the House side were because he didn’t do a good job of recruiting. That could be due to the fact that he was so focused on his impending Speakership that he didn’t think the GOP could falter in the midterms. In his defense, it appears no one thought the GOP would stumble as hard as they did in November, but if he was expecting to be the leader of the House come this week, he could have done a better job of selecting his troops.
That’s on him. And given the fact that his rise to power has been so blatantly about the power itself, rather than pushing a conservative agenda, he has failed to gain the trust of the people whose votes he needs to secure that power. If McCarthy fails to secure the Speakership for the second time in a decade, it’s a clear sign that he’s simply not meant for the job, and perhaps he needs to consider a different career path.