Thursday, July 18, 2024

Between A Rock And A Hard Place: Kevin McCarthy’s Increasing House Speaker Dilemma

Kevin McCarthy, the current House Minority Leader, may have won the GOP nomination for Speaker of the House, but the gauntlet he faces between now and 2023’s opening session of the new Congress is one he can’t afford to screw up if he wants that gavel.

Strategic pressure from multiple fronts is putting the squeeze on McCarthy to make concessions for a less authoritarian approach to the Speaker role, in order to secure majority GOP support for the floor vote, but there’s still time for contenders to emerge.

Andy Biggs R-AZ, of the House Freedom Caucus, ran against McCarthy in the bid for nomination. Biggs’ stated purpose in his long-shot bid was applying pressure to McCarthy rather than expecting to win. According to an article published by Vanity Fair “… he had acknowledged that McCarthy, who he said had “raised a lot of money,” would be tough to beat at this stage. Still, his run represents a wider agitation within the party for new leadership.”

Biggs went on in the same article, to say that “We have a new paradigm here, and I think the country wants a different direction from the House of Representatives.”

Biggs is correct, but the GOP is faced with a few challenges on this road to paving the way for a “different direction.”

McCarthy has been heavy-handed in his leadership, and many from his own party consider him to be a RINO. Despite this, they are feeling pressure to support his nomination, if for no other reason than to prevent further division in the GOP. But others are vehemently against the Californian’s ascension, reinforcing that division.

Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks to this in her support of McCarthy’s nomination, breaking from the hard-core conservative base. “If we don’t unify behind Kevin McCarthy, we’re opening the door for the Democrats to elect their own speaker by pulling some of ours.” (Vanity Fair)

Greene has a point, as “31 Republicans voted against him in the secret ballot leadership vote.” (Vanity Fair)

McCarthy needs 218 votes at the opening of the new Congress in order to secure the gavel. That leaves him with a split-hair margin of error to work with, and that also means he’s going to have to work harder to get the support of his own party, thus creating the opportunity for the Freedom Caucus to pressure him for concessions regarding his approach to leadership and order on the floor. 

The agitation with the status quo that Biggs is alluding to, along with others, has to do with McCarthy’s track record for extreme rigidity as minority leader since 2019.  

Scott McKay, publisher of RVIVR, states “Kevin McCarthy is insisting on running the House as a tyrant the way Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi ran it. The members want a return to regular order, so that they can offer amendments on the floor. That hasn’t been available for six years. He’s denying that to them, so the Freedom Caucus is saying they won’t vote for him and right now he can’t get to 218 votes, even if the GOP captures the majority.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz(R-FL) shares this disdainful view of McCarthy with many others, as blatantly expressed in an interview with The Washington Examiner. “There are definitely at least five people, actually a lot more than that, who would rather be waterboarded by Liz Cheney than vote for Kevin McCarthy for Speaker of the House.”

A recently published New York Post article quotes Marjorie Taylor Greene, saying “It’s very, very risky right now to produce a leadership challenge, especially for speaker of the House, when they are going to open the door and allow Liz Cheney, possibly, to become speaker,” ​she said on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast. 

The article then goes on to say, “Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), one of two Republicans serving on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, was defeated in a Republican primary in Wyoming in August. However, that does not preclude her from becoming speaker, since House rules allow non-members to hold the post.”

Neither Cheney or McCarthy are good choices, which is why Biggs (R-Ariz) stepped in and sought nomination to at least present a challenge to pressure McCarthy and keep him and his supporters on their toes.

Those 31 anti-McCarthy votes are not just representative of the division within the GOP, but the ever-looming notion of the potential rise of a third party, which Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) alludes to in a recent tweet; “The old party is dead. Time to bury it. Build something new.” Hawley’s statement had more to do with a related effort on the Senate side to move away from the leadership of Mitch McConnell within that body, but the sentiment is a bicameral one – particularly on the part of younger conservatives fed up with years of weak leadership and infirm efforts to stave off gains by the Left.

To complicate things further, The New York Post reiterates the thin ice that McCarthy’s nomination is on; “McCarthy has little wiggle room, with Republicans expected to only achieve one or two seats more than the 218 needed to narrowly control the chamber.”

Republicans were widely expected to regain control of the House and Senate in the midterms due to historical trends, President Biden’s low approval ratings, and Americans’ disappointment with Democrats over the economy and higher crime rates.

But Democrats retained control of the Senate, and a Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker in Georgia will determine if they pick up 51 seats.

With such a marginal majority expected, the GOP leadership is between a rock and a hard place with its strategy to secure the gavel.

These are serious hurdles that the GOP must overcome if we are to unite the party toward an effectively led House of Representatives; if it’s possible, at all.

Will McCarthy make a u-turn on harsh leadership and return the House to a more small-d democratic era of committee markups, members bringing amendments to bills on the floor and single-subject restrictions on legislation to eliminate omnibus bills containing thousands of pages of legislative language which must be read in 72 hours or less before being voted on?

Or if not, is Josh Hawley right? “The old party is dead. Bury it. Build something new.”

Is this how America recovers from the blatant corruption she’s being destroyed by? Finally realizing that we’re dealing with two wings of the same bird; a bird so fat and weak that it can’t fly anymore.

Well, given the advanced age of many in Congress that are digging their heels in, and our Resident in The White House…

One can’t help but lean toward Hawley’s view. It seems like McCarthy must either accept a reform of House rules or some compromise candidate, like perhaps incoming House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) or Vice-Chairman of the GOP Caucus Mike Johnson (R-LA) might well unseat him.

The other alternatives are simply unthinkable. It’s time to think of America and the conservative movement, not someone’s personal legacy.