What McCarthy’s concessions could cost him — and the GOP


Kevin McCarthy is donating a growing share of the store in the name of recovering from his languid campaign for Speaker of the House. The would-be speaker has bowed to the will of the House Freedom Caucus through a series of major concessions, despite little evidence it actually influences enough members, or really everything members.

Twenty-one Republicans voted against him on the seventh, eighth and ninth ballots on Thursday – the same number as every ballot on Wednesday, despite McCarthy’s allies suggesting they had made overnight progress.

At some point, McCarthy’s GOP supporters have to wonder how willing they are to nurture this strategy before it gets too far for them. That’s because McCarthy’s concessions could not only negatively impact them and their view of the House, but it makes it more likely that even a speaker not named McCarthy would have to match them.

And some are indeed beginning to worry about the trajectory of these negotiations, suggesting that McCarthy risks robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Chris Stewart (R-Utah) confirmed to MSNBC that there is a breaking point that he and his fellow McCarthy supporters could rush to, saying, “Honestly, a lot of us feel like we’re very , very close to that at this point.”

Stewart added: “If you go beyond that, you’d really get to a point where…we’re not going to be ruled by them. And I think we’re approaching that threshold now, where two things: there’s a that as long as you can ask, and I think we’ve achieved that. And then the second thing is if you go beyond that, you’re going to start losing the support of the other 200. Kevin, I know, is aware of that , and I think he’s careful not to go over that line.”

Robert B. Aderholt (R-Ala.) raised similar concerns Thursday morning. Speaking to reporters, he particularly objected to requests by McCarthy holdouts for subcommittee chairmanship. Among other things, McCarthy opponent Andy Harris (R-Md.) is reportedly pushing for a chair of the health-related subcommittee that Aderholt is vying for.

“As far as skipping people’s seniority, I think you’ve gone too far,” Aderholt said, according to Politico’s Sarah Ferris.

Committee assignments might be the most personal aspect of it all. McCarthy holdouts have also sought a number of seats on the influential House Rules Committee – enough seats, it seems, to join the Democrats in stopping virtually everything from hitting the ground.

But that last question also underscores the broader significance of concessions: They risk allowing the House Freedom Caucus and its allies to stall work in a tightly divided House. Along the same lines, McCarthy holdouts won a major concession allowing a single member to force a vote to remove the speaker at any time, otherwise known as a motion to “vacate the chair.”

It could also increase the influence of a handful of MPs on House business; indeed, a spokesman for the last Republican speaker, Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) compared him to a “gun pointed at [the speaker] all the time.” (This rule has existed for much of American history, but it looms large with a very tightly divided House and a wrecking Freedom Caucus.)

McCarthy’s allies are apparently beginning to wonder what all these concessions would mean for their ability to achieve their goals – as they should, due to the extent to which the Freedom Caucus has suggested (and even proven) that it is ready. to go.

For example, a McCarthy resister, Ralph Norman (RS.C.), indicated Wednesday that to win his vote, McCarthy would have to be prepared to shut down the government and default on debt. Norman backed off a bit Thursday. But it’s emblematic of what giving in to these members’ demands could portend.

If Aderholt and Stewart are serious about what they’re saying, it could mean that any progress McCarthy makes with his right flank — to the extent that’s even possible — could come at the expense of his more established supporters. And given that he can only lose about four votes, that reinforces his vexing math problem on speaking.

It also raises the unlikely scenario of a bipartisan agreement to elect the president. We were skeptical that enough Republicans would join Democrats in electing a more moderate GOP president, and if that’s even possible, that would seem a long way off.

But if there really isn’t any level of concessions that can get McCarthy to 218 votes, the process could be pushed in that direction. And at some point, enough McCarthy supporters might decide that the growing list of concessions — whether in a McCarthy presidency or because any GOP-elected replacement would also have to accept them — is worse than having to cut a deal with the Democrats.

Again, we haven’t reached that point. But even if McCarthy ultimately doesn’t win, the things he comes up with during this process are important. And the fact that we now hear his supporters ringing the alarm bell surely thickens the plot.


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