House GOP Elect McCarthy as Leader 11/15 06:13
Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy easily won an internal party election to take
over the shrunken House GOP caucus, handing the seven-term Californian a
familiar role of building the party back to a majority as well as protecting
President Donald Trump's agenda.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy easily won an internal
party election to take over the shrunken House GOP caucus, handing the
seven-term Californian a familiar role of building the party back to a majority
as well as protecting President Donald Trump's agenda.
With Speaker Paul Ryan retiring and the House majority gone, the race for
minority leader was McCarthy's to lose Wednesday. But rarely has a leader of a
party that suffered a major defeat --- Democrats wiped out Republicans in
GOP-held suburban districts from New York to McCarthy's own backyard --- been
so handily rewarded.
After defeating Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the conservative House Freedom Caucus
co-founder, McCarthy will be tested by Republicans on and off Capitol Hill who
remain angry and divided after their midterm losses, and split over how best to
"We'll be back," McCarthy promised, claiming a unified front for the
Republican leadership team. He won by 159-43 among House Republicans.
McCarthy, who has been majority leader under Ryan, acknowledged Republicans
"took a beating" in the suburbs in last week's national elections, especially
as the ranks of GOP female lawmakers plummeted to just 13. The GOP side of the
aisle will be made up of 90 percent white men in the new Congress --- an
imbalance he blamed on billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's
election spending to help Democrats.
Bloomberg spent more than $110 million in the midterms. Two Republican women
were defeated by candidates he supported, and both were replaced by Democratic
women, said spokeswoman Rachel Nagler.
McCarthy has been here before, having helped pick up the party after
Republicans last lost control of the House in 2006, leading them to the 2010
tea party wave that pushed them back into the majority.
Trump, who is close to McCarthy but also friendly with Jordan, largely
stayed on the sidelines in the intraparty House contest. The outcome gives the
president two allies positioned to help him.
While McCarthy provides an affable face for the GOP, Jordan, the former Ohio
wrestling champ and a Fox News regular, will be fighting Democrats'
investigations into Trump's businesses and administration.
GOP Whip Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who was badly wounded in
last year's congressional baseball practice shooting and unanimously won his
position Wednesday, said McCarthy "knows what he needs to do."
Rounding out the GOP leadership team will be Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a
daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was on hand to watch his
daughter take over the No. 3 spot he held decades ago. "He told me not to screw
it up," she said.
House Democrats put off until after Thanksgiving their more prominent
contest, Rep. Nancy Pelosi's bid to regain the speaker's gavel she held when
the Democrats last had the majority.
On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of
Kentucky won another term leading Republicans and Chuck Schumer of New York won
for Democrats. Both were selected by acclamation.
Senate Republicans also welcomed the first woman to their leadership team in
years, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, as they sought to address the optics of the GOP
side of the aisle being dominated by men. Ernst called her selection "a great
In the House, Jordan and McCarthy shook hands after a testy two days of
closed-door sessions, according to lawmakers in the room for Wednesday's
voting. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the Freedom Caucus chairman,
called it a "gentlemanly" debate.
But the friendly talk papers over the infighting between the GOP's
conservative and moderate flanks as lawmakers dole out blame after the midterm
election losses that handed House Democrats the majority.
Many Republicans side with Jordan's theory, which is that Republicans,
despite a GOP monopoly on power in Washington, lost because they didn't "do
what we said" --- including delivering Trump's priority to build the border
wall with Mexico.
McCarthy made that argument too, lawmakers said, suggesting that those who
lost their races --- or came close to losing --- didn't work hard enough to
sell the GOP's message. At one point, he was running ads in some districts
promoting Trump's border wall.
GOP Rep. Peter King of New York rose to object, saying his view was that
Republicans lost ground over the GOP tax cuts that reduced deductions for some
filers. The harsh immigration rhetoric that turned off suburban voters didn't
help, he said.
"We used to own the suburbs," King said. "Now we're down to rural voters."
McCarthy relishes an underdog role, which channels the spirit of his
hometown of Bakersfield in California's central valley, where he worked his way
up from a congressional aide.
"We think he's absolutely our best political strategist, our best
fundraiser, our best recruiter," said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. "And that's
job No. 1 in getting back to the majority."
But after eight years of GOP control, the tea party class of 2010 is long
gone. So too are the "Young Guns" --- former leader Eric Cantor and outgoing
Speaker Ryan --- who penned that strategy. Voters largely panned the party's
latest signature accomplishment, Trump's tax cuts, and Republicans have all but
abandoned the tea party promises to cut the deficit and repeal and replace
Among those who opposed McCarthy, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, summed up
his view of the Californian's strengths and weaknesses. "He's a savant at
making friends," Massie said, "probably not at running the country."