And the McCarthy campaign seems to work, at least to some extent. While Trump is still disappointed with the Californian Republican’s initial response and has even reportedly called McCarthy vulgar, a Trump adviser said the pair remained on good terms despite their “startles,” adding that Trump appreciated McCarthy’s comments berating Cheney . Another source said Trump and McCarthy have had a cordial conversation since their last passionate interactions about the riots.
McCarthy’s public and private efforts to smooth things over with Trump show how much he still needs the MAGA wing of the party on his side in order to cement his future at the head of the GOP.
Still, the next two years could prove to be difficult for McCarthy as he tries to win back the majority and prevent his bitterly divided party from erupting into all-out civil war. And the crisis associated with the attack on Capitol Hill, along with the Conservatives’ efforts to oust Cheney from leadership that are likely to peak next week, will serve as a major test of McCarthy’s leadership in the post-Trump GOP.
“I think everyone in the leadership is trying to put the party on the best possible footing, given the challenges of the moment,” said first-year rep Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), Who voted to impeach Trump.
At the same time, however, McCarthy knows he must create some distance between his moderates and Trump if he is to reclaim the House and fulfill his dream of getting the speaker’s hammer. And then there’s McCarthy’s other challenge of fixing the GOP’s image with political donors and the business community, which froze PAC dollars to Republicans, like McCarthy, who challenged the election results.
This could explain why McCarthy’s response to the riots has been ubiquitous, at least in the eyes of some in the GOP. Several House Republicans say McCarthy – a sympathetic amiable person who prides himself on his fundraising skills and member relations – basically trying to have it both ways.
“This is the vintage Kevin McCarthy. He says yes to everyone, tries to make everyone happy, ”said a GOP lawmaker, who was granted anonymity to speak more freely. “And it always comes down to biting you in the ass.”
“Will the real Kevin McCarthy please stand up?” added the legislator.
McCarthy’s allies and aides, however, say he has been consistent in his posture towards Trump. The Minority Leader still maintains that Trump is partly responsible for the riots – but because he didn’t do enough to quell the mobs as they stormed the Capitol, not because Trump tried to ‘incite violence. McCarthy made a similar statement in his speech during Trump’s second impeachment.
And while McCarthy was also criticized over the weekend for suggesting that “everyone across the country has some responsibility,” he was referring to the fiery political discourse, a sentiment he has expressed on several occasions since January 6.
“I haven’t changed in this [position]McCarthy told Gray Television’s Full Court Press With Greta Van Susteren. “I thought the president had some responsibility for the response. If you listen to what the president said at the rally, he said, “Demonstrate peacefully”. “
While McCarthy didn’t receive the same level of GOP backlash as Cheney, he faced his fair share of criticism at the conference for his response to the riots, at least behind closed doors. Some GOP lawmakers say McCarthy now appears to be watering down his criticism of Trump in order to avoid the wrath of hardline conservatives, who already denied him the post of president in 2015.
“He always puts his political finger to the wind and tries to change,” said a House Republican. “It seems to be based on his personal ambitions.”
Before being “My Kevin” – a nickname Trump affectionately bestowed on McCarthy – he introduced himself as a “Young Gun” Republican with close ties to Silicon Valley.
But over the past four years, McCarthy has built his political identity around his close relationship with Trump, emerging as one of his closest and most trusted Conservative allies on Capitol Hill. And that’s a reputation McCarthy seems keen to maintain, even in the wake of the Attacks of January 6 which left five dead.
the fight for Cheney – who has already become a proxy battle for the future of the GOP – could put McCarthy in a bind.
Allowing Cheney to be ousted from her post as GOP conference chairperson, the No. 3 leadership position, would likely be disastrous for a party that has just elected a record number of women to Congress, including in the districts changes that will be crucial to protect in 2022. And all GOP leaders would rather rally around their opposition to the Biden administration.
Yet there is also little political advantage right now for McCarthy to vigorously defend Cheney, who has become Trumpworld’s No.1 Public Enemy.
“Chances are always [Cheney’s] favor because members – for the most part – don’t want leadership fights, ”said another GOP lawmaker. “Look at McCarthy and [GOP Whip Steve Scalise] on this one – it’s up to them to stop it, or they are complicit in its ousting.
McCarthy, however, has done little publicly or privately to quash the brewing rebellion against Cheney, according to multiple sources, although he has said he wants her to stay in her post. In fact, McCarthy has publicly sided with Cheney’s critics, who are not only upset with her impeachment vote, but also furious that she announced it a day in advance, which gave Democrats plenty of time to incorporate his statement into the talking points.
But in an attempt to keep some unity within the GOP ranks, McCarthy will provide members with a forum for their voices to be heard, saying they can voice their frustrations at their in-person conference meeting next week. McCarthy also pleaded with Republicans to avoid attacking each other in the press – advice some GOP lawmakers have ignored.
“My only conversation with Kevin McCarthy was after a TV hit, he asked me not to name members by name because we’ve all seen a substantial increase in death threats,” Rep. Matt Gaetz said. (R-Fla.), A Trump Loyalist who will campaign against Cheney in Wyoming this week. “I stopped referencing people by name for a day or two. As Liz became more and more problematic with her divergence from the conference, it became untenable not to identify her as being against America First Vision.
Rachael Bade and Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.