Why the news about Kevin McCarthy is not good for the GOP

Exit, stage left: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. leaves a news conference confirming his withdrawal from the race for House speaker, Thursday. Ironically, this may make it harder, not easier, to elect a more conservative speaker. (AP Photo / Evan Vucci)

Exit, stage left: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. leaves a news conference confirming his withdrawal from the race for House speaker, Thursday. Ironically, this may make it harder, not easier, to elect a more conservative speaker. (AP Photo / Evan Vucci)

Exit, stage left: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. leaves a news conference confirming his withdrawal from the race for House speaker, Thursday. Ironically, this may make it harder, not easier, to elect a more conservative speaker. (AP Photo / Evan Vucci)

The shocking moment of the day (so far), via the Associated Press:

“WASHINGTON — In a stunning move, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy withdrew his candidacy for House speaker Thursday, throwing Congress’ Republican leadership into chaos.

“McCarthy was heavily favored to win his GOP colleagues’ endorsement for the post, but a vigorous challenge from hardline House conservatives threatened a smooth ratification when the full House voted Oct. 29. It is uncertain now when that vote will occur to replace Speaker John Boehner, who is to retire at the end of the month.

“McCarthy shocked his colleagues at the start of Thursday’s closed meeting, telling them he was not the right person for the job. He recommended that the election be postponed and Boehner delayed it.”

Going back to what I wrote when Boehner suddenly announced his resignation, it’s clear that fight time on Capitol Hill has only begun. The answers to these questions about a faction of dissenters within the GOP ranks are also coming into focus:

“Now we will see just how influential some of these voices, in and out of Congress, really are. If the next speaker doesn’t govern much differently, will they decide maybe they were wrong to heap so much blame on Boehner personally? Will they try to replace the replacement? Could they end up realizing their problem is they don’t have the votes to back up their rhetoric?”

So far, the answers are no, yes, and no. McCarthy made his own missteps along the way — most notably, his attempt to politicize a House investigation into Benghazi that is serious enough as to have helped prompt an FBI investigation of the handling of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails. But his inability to win over some 30-odd members of the Freedom Caucus seems to have sealed his fate. A candidate needs 218 votes to win an election for speaker and the GOP has 247 representatives, so if that group’s members stick together they can keep someone from being elected, even if they can’t get someone elected.

Note the use of the vague word “candidate” in that previous sentence. The Constitution does not restrict the speakership to members of the House, although all speakers to date have been elected congressmen, and there is some speculation that this moment could prompt a new precedent. I still doubt that. (But wouldn’t it be the ultimate trolling of Harry Reid and others obsessed with them for one of the Koch brothers to get the job?)

Back to being serious. Intra-party disagreement and even conflict over policy can be, as I mentioned briefly yesterday, a good thing. But this is getting a little ridiculous. When one in eight members of the House GOP caucus can’t a) get on board with a candidate who otherwise has the party’s backing, or b) isn’t taken seriously enough by the other seven-in-eight to negotiate some concessions in exchange for getting on board, or c) is insisting on too many concessions in order to get on board — well, you have to start asking questions like this one:

One thing is for sure: While it’s still early, this is the kind of inanity that could cost Republicans the White House and perhaps even an otherwise near-bulletproof House majority in next year’s elections. When there is speculation the next speaker will have to be elected with both Republican and Democratic votes, it’s time to ask whether the purity brigade is bringing results that are more conservative, or less.

Reader Comments 0

148 comments
LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Kyle, you've been taken in by the America-hating, mouth-breathing left on this one.  Most people don't give a rip who the Speaker of the House is and it will have nothing to do with their vote for President.

Losers will still vote Democrat.  People who work for a living and pay the country's bills will still vote Republican.

Caius
Caius

This amusing saga is brought to you in part by politicians who promised to "get A, B & C  done when I get to Washington" and way to many voters falling for the line.  The voters for some strange reason actually believe that one member of a 435 member house is going to get something done.  Then add in the 60 vote requirement in the Senate, the 2/3 vote requirement to override a presidential veto, and yet voters still do not understand why their candidate did not get A, B & C done like he promised. 


Then a new candidate jumps into the ring and promises not only to get A, B & C done but also D & E.  And voters follow him lemming like and send him to Washington.  With the same results.


The US Constitution forces every bill to be passed by two chambers and signed by the president.  It was set up that way on purpose.  It was very difficult to get a bill through both houses of Congress and then the Senate threw the 60 vote requirement into the formula. 

lvg
lvg

Republicans  saving grace is they got Rinse Prebus in charge. He will get everything squared away  like he did in 2012.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

 I will say that I am now hearing things that could make me change my mind about who's really to blame here.


Let me guess ... Tea party?



DMayr
DMayr

Given that the likely 'wild card' variable in this equation (rumors of affair with another GOP House member) has now become common knowledge, will there be any amendments to this post? Surely an innocent MacCarthy would be valiant and committed to the cause of leading his party. Or might you suspect there is some bona fide fire to go along with this smoke from the far right...?


Of course: the simplest conclusion might be the best: MaCarthy just realizes what a painful, thankless and ultimately futile future awaits the next Speaker as they contend with all of the 'adults in the room' in the Freedom Caucus.

DMayr
DMayr

@Kyle_Wingfield Hence saying the  'rumor' is what has become common knowledge.


Since this is an opinion column, would you care to opine on the friendly fire nature of these rumors (i.e., originating from and being actively perpetuated by prominent members of the far right community)? I suspect that, had these rumors come from a liberal source , we'd get an avalanche of righteous indignation, cries of character assassination, "Chicago-style" politics, etc. But somehow Charles Johnson (GOP donor) and Rep. Walter Jones can either insinuate or outright accuse and not a peep from so many GOP commentators. No lack of objectivity there...


You're carrying the water of a party that cannot even govern itself, yet you support them to govern our country? How does that compute?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

"has now become common knowledge"

I think you meant, the rumor is being widely reported, without confirmation.

If the rumor (or any other new info that would change my opinion) is confirmed, then yes, I will amend the post.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@DMayr I'm not sure how I'm "carrying the water" of a party when this post lays out just how bad they're messing up. But to answer your final questions: Given the poor choices we have now, I'd rather have a party that doesn't know how to do the right things than a party that is fully capable of doing the wrong things.

DMayr
DMayr

@Kyle_Wingfield @DMayr Well, for an endless supply of empirical evidence (not rhetoric or rumor) on how the GOP governs America, see 2000-2008. They had control over Congress, the White House and a majority of seats in SCOTUS, and we got: a voluntary war that cost trillions, the worst housing crisis in generations, TARP for $700 billion, and the Great Recession. 


Yeah, I'm sure the GOP has wised up and will do better next time. Look how 'adult' they're being...

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Serious question, Kyle:  Is yours the only AJC blog that has to be actively moderated?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

I chose to do this. I don't know if anyone else has also chosen to do so.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

The Republican motto:  Party before country!


And it is tearing them apart.

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

Be interesting to see how the latest temper tantrum of the Far Far Far Right plays out.  The real problem here is that there is a significant portion of the Republican Party that is not interested in either governing or moving this country forward.  The end goal for Republicans for the last 35 years has been to make government small enough to drown in a bathtub and now we have a group that wants to follow through with the drowning.


Best case for the country is we finally see the return of the real Republicans...the ones that rose with Ike and died with Newt.  Then we can have a three party system Republicans, Democrats and The Party of No.

332-206
332-206

Gee, that was a sweet spot, yes? A Republican Party capable of opening up China, creating an EPA...

A dream for me, a nightmare for the current zealots...

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

I will say that I am now hearing things that could make me change my mind about who's really to blame here. If those things are confirmed, I will amend the post to reflect that.

Boehner? Pelosi? Reid? The Donald? 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

Nope. Maybe I should have just left my mouth shut...

styymy
styymy

They've got the House and Senate and can't even give the House Speakers job away. Very troublesome indeed.

Beau1500
Beau1500

Hey Kyle, exactly what does "moderator" mean? Does that mean you get to read everybody's comments and post only the ones you approve of.  I currently have 5 comments "Pending" one from half an hour ago.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

It means I moderate the thread to avoid insults (as in some of your comments below) and other jawing back and forth that tend to mire the thread in needless, useless fighting. (I also moderate it to avoid off-topic comments that would hijack the thread.) I have been doing this for more than a year now, and it has worked quite well. It does, however, mean that comments posted "after hours" usually don't get approved quickly.

On that note, I am technically taking today off to help prepare for a family wedding, but I will be checking on the thread from time to time.

Beau1500
Beau1500

My friend Kyle  it is not a small faction.  This is what your party has become.

Recon2/3
Recon2/3

Boehner, tried to function as House speaker with an iron hand in the sense that he withheld legislation that he disagreed with from even getting an up or down vote. He was the divide among Republicans. Pressure is on Paul Ryan, who has indicated that he doesn't wish to fill the role of House Speaker, however, he has the greatest respect among both the hard line conservatives and the moderates. This may ultimately work out the best for Republicans if they can draft the candidate who can enjoy respect from both factions. We shall see.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@Recon2/3 

"Boehner, tried to function as House speaker with an iron hand in the sense that he withheld legislation that he disagreed with from even getting an up or down vote."

That will always be the case no matter who the Speaker is...

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

This is all fallout from a leader who was either incapable or unwilling to lead and a party with leaders and backers unwilling to respect outcomes of elections.

Elected officials in both major parties have a serious problem living up to the meaning of "public service". The USG has become a cesspool of corruption. Democrat voters are more contributing to the problem than helping solve it, but we can start with a cleansing of the GOP.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Take what you need you think will last . . . it's all over now baby blue.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

This is not that big of a deal. Out of 435 House members there are MANY men and women who are eminently qualified to be speaker. The right person will emerge.


Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

The room was stunned as McCarthy announced he is "not the right one" to lead the conference. At 8am he was at a forum making his pitch.


Anyone think maybe this was Boehner's plan all along. A miss me yet moment ?

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Someone below said the Conservatives/Freedom Caucus were holding back the House from doing what American's want.  I don't know what polls you proggies read, but the last ones I saw, said Americans wanted the following:


Borders closed

Immigration reduced

Obamacare replaced

Pacific Trade deal denied

Iranian Deal defeated

Spending reduced/Budget balanced


The current GOP mainstream only gives lip service to what the people are saying they want, they need to be replaced. 

332-206
332-206

Are those the polls that pronounced Mitt a winner?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@332-206

Speaking of which, I'm genuinely shocked at the news that Gallup is voluntarily withdrawing from polling the primary races and might not do the general election polling either. It's apparently got a lot to do with how badly they got 2012 wrong (their final national polls had Romney up by a point when he lost by more than four)--and frankly, I wish they wouldn't let that stand in their way of continuing to try to get it right.

See also:

http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/gallup-gave-up-heres-why-that-sucks/

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@RafeHollister I know what the polls said in November of 2008 and 2012


They said the country wanted Barrack Obama and his agenda to be President. 


Polls also show the country favors gay marriage. They also show strong support for min wage hikes. 


They show they don't want Obamacare repealed. etc


Could go back and forth on polls all day. The only one that matters is on election day

Beau1500
Beau1500

@RafeHollister I do believe you may be a devotee of Fox News.  That is not AT ALL what most Americans want. The fact that Obama was elected twice means the death knell for you and all your right wing extremist nuts.  Get used to it.

lvg
lvg

@RafeHollister Oh please these anarchists want a whole lot more if they get the keys to the asylum:

-abolish Planned Parenthood;

-Repeal and not replace Obamacare;

-keep the debt ceiling in place without raising it;

-war with Iran and maybe Russia

- eliminate all government entitlements;

-more B-1 visas for good immigrants who can steal US jobs at lower wages;

-impeachment proceedings for any objectionable executive actions etc.

NorthAtlanta
NorthAtlanta

@Beau1500

Not sure what planet you live on.  Or were you asleep for the last two-plus years when the GOP won so many seats in congress and governorships?


Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@lvg @RafeHollister 

Or so they say.  Would they still say it if they didn't know that the Senate would save them from themselves?

postcub
postcub

Independent voters do not care about this infighting...  So this will not cause issues with Republicans trying to win the White House.    The only way this could be an issue, is if the Republicans vote for a speaker who is very right and not willing to basic governance.

Claver
Claver

@postcub If the infighting results in something like a default in the debt or a government shut down, independents will care.

lvg
lvg

I could swear GOP promised to govern and create solutions to American's problems when they swept the 2014 election. Not a whole lot of governing that I see. How many jobs are these bozos creating with all their infighting and obstinence?Why not just let Head of Heritage Action be the Speaker or Rush Limabaugh.so we get the real picture?

independentiii
independentiii

When can we re-start pronouncing 'Boehner' the way he said has been the historical pronunciation for generations of his family - before the news media made him change it? 

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

" this is the kind of inanity that could cost Republicans the White House and perhaps even an otherwise near-bulletproof House majority in next year’s elections."

Completely agree with this assessment, Kyle. They can't seem to help but hurt themselves. 

Part of the problem is Party before Country.  Purity first and foremost!  The country be damned! Who cares what happens if the government is shut down. The point must be made that SOMETHING IS BAD and we cannot stand for it because we're against that bad thing!!!  (Insert "bad thing" of the election cycle here)


ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

I think the 2010 gerrymandering will ensure the House....the Senate and the White House are another story. I mean they threw Hillary a life line when she was sinking for goodness sake....you can't make this stuff up...the real question is what the House will do in 2016 and 2017....a lot of pyrrhic vote victories that won't be approved in the Senate or actual legislation to bolster the Republican candidate by showing their conservative blueprints for the country?