The far right fringe of the GOP kept Kevin McCarthy out of the speakership once before. Now that fringe is dominant inside the GOP. When the fascist-oriented wing drove John Boehner out of the speakership towards the end of 2015, McCarthy was the establishment favorite and Boehner subtly endorsed him. But McCarthy's campaign for the job fell flat when he admitted on Hannity's show that the biggest GOP achievement in the majority was to use the Benghazi special committee to torpedo Hillary Clinton-- "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought." But even if that embarrassed normalish Republicans, the far right just felt he was too mainstream and way too corrupt and beholden to lobbyists, consultants and big corporate donors for them. Once he realized, at the last second, he couldn't get a majority of the conference, he suddenly and shockingly withdrew. The NY Times reported at the time:
A group of about 40 hard-right House conservatives announced on Wednesday night that they would support [Daniel] Webster, making it clear that McCarthy would have had to accede to their demands as he struggled to assemble 218 votes over the next three weeks. (While only Republicans choose their nominee, a majority of the whole House, including Democrats, elects the speaker.)
The Republicans who participated in the revolt were jubilant over the turn of events.
“K Street has got to be really nervous around here,” Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, the leader of the House Tea Party Caucus, said, referring to Washington’s lobbyist corridor. “And the American people out there are probably saying, ‘Wait a minute, there might be some real change in Washington.’”
McCarthy has been dogged over the last week with questions about his verbal competence, his conservative credentials and his ability to fuse a group of members that may in fact defy unification. He said he would remain as majority leader, scrambling the races for all of the House Republican leadership positions.
...Several people close to McCarthy said he had initially believed that Boehner’s resignation would have been enough to satiate the rebels in the party. But it became increasingly clear that to secure the votes to become speaker, he would face the same battles that repeatedly bloodied Boehner, his far more seasoned predecessor.
“If we are going to unite and be strong, we need a new face,” McCarthy said.
Eventually they elected Paul Ryan-- and then they drove him into resigning too. So now McCarthy, many say, is bending over backwards to please the fascist wing of the family. This morning the PunchBowl crew reported that last week Marjorie Traitor Greene harvested herself another flurry of headlines for herself when she said that McCarthy doesn’t have the votes to be speaker. "'We know that Kevin McCarthy has a problem in our conference. He doesn't have the full support to be speaker,' Greene said during a podcast hosted by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is definitely not a McCarthy fan. 'He doesn't have the votes that are there, because there's many of us that are very unhappy about the failure to hold Republicans accountable, while conservatives like me, Paul Gosar, and many others just constantly take the abuse by the Democrats.' Gosar was recently censured and kicked off his committees by Democrats-- like Greene was earlier this year-- for posting an animated video where he killed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)."
However, by Friday, Greene tweeted this:
“I just got off a good call with @GOPLeader.
We spent time talking about solving problems not only in the conference, but for our country.
I like what he has planned ahead.”
Now, this isn’t an endorsement of McCarthy-- and that’s worth pointing out. But it does go to show McCarthy is aware of what his members are saying about him and how quickly the California Republican will respond if one of his colleagues publicly criticizes him. And he knows how to work his members, what their issues are and how to address those concerns.
It’s also worth noting that Greene’s new chief of staff is Ed Buckham, who was a former top aide to ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) at one point. Buckham’s lobbying career imploded after his firm was implicated in the Jack Abramoff scandal, and he’s kept a low profile for a long time. Yet Greene and Buckham know how to exploit the “I-won’t-support-McCarthy-for-speaker” issue for press coverage, that’s clear.
Greene’s biggest complaints are that she wants Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)-- currently serving on the Jan. 6 select committee-- kicked out of the Republican Conference. She also wants Rep. John Katko (R-NY) to lose his ranking member post on the Homeland Security Committee. Katko was among 13 Republicans who voted for the recent $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Enactment of that legislation was a big political win for President Joe Biden and the Democrats. A number of GOP hardliners wanted Republican lawmakers who voted for it punished. McCarthy hasn’t supported that move, and a resolution to do so was buried internally by the Republican Conference without a vote.
McCarthy is going to have to deal with these public eruptions from the right during the next 13 months, especially as the likelihood of a GOP victory in the 2022 midterms grows. Dealing with lawmakers like Greene is part of what leadership refers to as “member management.” Assuaging their concerns or meeting their demands isn’t always possible, but it’s McCarthy’s job to explain what he’s doing and why.
In this instance, it seems quite obvious that McCarthy’s view is that Republicans shouldn’t be fighting when the GOP has such a big political advantage over the Democrats. Here’s how McCarthy world views Greene’s complaints: Cheney could easily lose her primary next year and Kinzinger isn’t even running for re-election. Katko will have to make his case in front of the steering committee to be Homeland Security chair if the Republicans win the majority-- and that’s not a sure bet.
Of course, there are plenty of complaints about how McCarthy handles MTG and Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-CO) racist or outrageous behavior. Greene and Boebert have both called the Squad the “Jihad Squad”-- principally because Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is an “Islamic terrorist sympathizer,” according to Greene. Boebert also suggested Omar was going to blow up the Capitol, which is disgusting and untrue. McCarthy called Boebert about the comments. Boebert later apologized and asked Omar for a meeting.
The most important issue for McCarthy-- if Republicans win-- will be how big a margin of control he has. Then McCarthy can see what kind of deals he has to cut with Greene or other conservatives. Newly elected GOP lawmakers will likely be a strong pocket of support for McCarthy. And as long as he continues to have the backing of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and other high-profile incumbents, he should be fine. We just don’t see a big enough block of anti-McCarthy votes to defeat him at this point-- as long as he has enough votes to play with in January 2023.
...The big question mark for McCarthy, of course, is former President Donald Trump. McCarthy has had a good relationship with Trump going back to the 2016 presidential campaign. McCarthy was the first top Republican to go to Florida to see the former president when he left the White House in January 2021. McCarthy continues to speak with Trump on a regular basis.
But Trump is unpredictable, and he’ll do whatever he thinks is in his own best interest. If that’s backing McCarthy, fine. If it’s dumping McCarthy, also fine. No one in McCarthy’s orbit has any doubts about that.
Democrats have two ways to stop McCarthy. First, they could put some muscle behind Bruno Amato's bid to replace McCarthy is his Bakersfield-centered district. (You can chip in to that effort here.) The other way would be to deny the Republicans a House majority-- something that is not looking too good right now, primarily because the Democrats have allowed their own conservative faction-- the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- to sabotage the Build Back Better agenda. You can blame it on Manchin and Sinema, neither of who is upper reelection next year. And you can blame their House collaborators-- like mangy Blue Dogs Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Kurt Schrader (OR), Lou Correa (CA), Henry Cuellar (TX) and Ed Case (HI). They are up for reelection and 4 of the 5 have plausible primary opponents who could beat them and hold the seats: Jamie McLeod-Skinner, Mike Ortega, Jessica Cisneros and Sergio Alcubilla. Can I suggest you help them replace the 4 corrupt conservative Democrats? Start by clicking the link.