We may be getting close to Thanksgiving, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy might as well be wearing Ebenezer Scrooge’s pajamas as this past week has shown him a glimpse of the Congress yet to come.
On Tuesday, he called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandor Mayorkas to resign for failing to secure the US-Mexico border, lest the House Majority decide whether to impeach him. It’s a sign that Trump-style hardline immigration rhetoric still dominates the GOP (and plenty of GOP ads focused on immigration).
“He cannot and must not remain in that position,” McCarthy said, flanked by fellow Republican members in a zip-up jacket for an obligatory photo-op in front of border fencing. “If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign, House Republicans will investigate every order, every action and every failure will determine whether we can begin impeachment inquiry.”
Of course, Mr Mayorkas will likely not resign and if impeachment were to take place, Democrats will still control the Senate–regardless of the outcome in Georgia–and they would likely acquit the secretary.
In addition, at a gathering for the Republican Jewish Coalition, he pledged that he would kick Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota off the House Foreign Affairs Committee for comments she made about Israel. There, he might actually have some power since many Republicans might be prone to vote to remove her from the committee.
These remarks by Mr McCarthy can best be understood as a way to shore up his right-wing base. Last week, when House Republicans voted to nominate him for Speaker. But he only won 181 to 33, far from the majority he would need to win on the House floor, and Democrats aren’t likely to bail him out.
Mr McCarthy has often spent his career being the equivalent of the assistant coach–somebody everybody likes to work with but so far has not had the burden of responsibility. In the California legislature, he often served as an intermediary who helped negotiate deals between the Democratic majority and recalcitrant Republicans.
When he got to Congress in 2008, he harnessed the mad-as-hell energy of the Tea Party to recruit members in the 2010 red wave, befriending many and earning comparisons to “your favorite fraternity brother.” In 2019, he noticed how Democrats’ newly-minted majority “looked like America” while the GOP conference “looked like the most restrictive country club in America,” as he told The New York Times.
Now, he’s the man who wants to be in the chair, which means he actually has to please people, listen to their demands and get them to think he’s the best guy for the job. And it doesn’t look like he has the votes just yet.
On Tuesday evening, Representative Matt Gaetz tweeted that he would back Representative Jim Jordan. Mr Jordan, for his part, likely wouldn’t want the job since he is set to be chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and vigorously lead investigations into Hunter Biden.
Rather, this was a warning shot for Mr McCarthy to watch his right flank. Mr Gaetz has never particularly liked Mr McCarthy, even floating the idea he would nominate Donald Trump as Speaker of the House. Mr Gaetz also took exception when audio leaked of Mr McCarthy saying he would push Mr Trump to resign after the 6 January riot.
Similarly, Andy Biggs of Arizona, one of the major election deniers who said “we don’t know” who won in his home state in 2020, said he won’t support Mr McCarthy for Speaker. Mr McCarthy might need to call in his former workout buddy Kyrsten Sinema, who also happens to be friends with Mr Biggs from their days in Arizona’s state legislature.
Still, he has some support from conservatives. Right-wing firebrand Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene threw her support behind Mr McCarthy. Outsiders typically would not consider the extremist lawmaker from Georgia to be a pragmatist, but she made the case last week that Republicans needed to unify lest they open “the door for the Democrats to recruit some of our Republicans,” warning that she wanted to make sure Republicans had subpoena power in the majority.
But McCarthy won’t just have to contend with conservatives. As friends of the newsletter Olivia Beavers, Jordain Carney and Sarah Ferris reported over at Politico, centrist members of his conference have their own demands, with Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska, who is perpetually in danger and entered Mr Trump’s crosshairs, saying “It’s time we flex our muscles.”
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