GOP Infighting Threatens Kevin McCarthy’s House Speaker Dreams

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Should the GOP retake Congress, it is possible for disaffected colleagues to sideline the front-runner as speaker. 
Steve Bannon, Trump adviser, is the latest to join Kevin McCarthy bashing.
Insider was told by a GOP operative that there is too much curtain measuring going on 10 months out.

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Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Leader, played it safe and stayed away from the public spotlight on Thursday as the country celebrated the first anniversary of a pro-Trump mob storming the US Capitol.

His notable absence enabled him to avoid asking tough questions about a date that Vice President Kamala Harris connected back with the 1941 Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor and September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

It may have also cost McCarthy politically with a group GOP hardliners close to Trump. They could endanger McCarthy’s bid for the House speaker in 2022 if Republicans win back the majority.

Trumpworld fixture Steve Bannon has joined the chorus detractors of McCarthy this week, telling his podcast listeners the current crop GOP leaders are “just sitting here as controlled opposition.” 

Although Bannon didn’t name the eight-term California Republican, Bannon did express his desire for “leadership prepared to ensure our country isn’t stolen.” 

Bannon isn’t an elected official, and he doesn’t have a vote at the House. His voice is powerful among MAGA supporters. He joins a growing group of strange friends that includes Reps. Liz Cheney in Wyoming, Adam Kinzinger from Illinois, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia, and Matt Gaetz, Florida, who all show growing contempt for McCarthy.

McCarthy has been taunting Greene and Gaetz for months about the obstacles that they can put in his way of being elected House speaker. On the January 6th anniversary, they both continued to deliver MAGA applause while criticizing their own party leadership.

Greene stated, “I wish there was more of our conference together,” during a webcast that he did with Gaetz from the Capitol complex. 

McCarthy’s right isn’t the only one he has to deal with. Rep. Liz Cheney brought her dad to Capitol to commemorate January 6 riot. The former vice president took advantage of the opportunity and took a dig at McCarthy.

Dick Cheney, a former Wyoming congressman who served the GOP minority whip for six terms, said that it’s not a leader that resembles any of those I knew. 

On the first anniversary of January 6, insurrection, Rep. Liz Cheney (left) and Dick Cheney (right) walk through the Capitol Rotunda.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/

McCarthy’s balancing act

Trump’s relationship with McCarthy is anything but certain. 

As rioters invaded the Capitol on January 6, 2021 rioters set fire to their rivals. McCarthy stated on the floor one week later that the former President was responsible for the unprecedented attack. 

Trump presented a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jim Jordan of Ohio as a reward for his support. McCarthy raced to Palm Beach, Florida within weeks to meet with Jim Jordan, an Ohio supporter, and to bend his knee at Mar-a-Lago. Trump used the reunion as a photo-op. 

—Ed O’Keefe (@edokeefe) January 28, 2021


McCarthy wrote an open letter to his colleagues to kick off 2022. He criticized the Biden administration, and asked everyone to help him flip this chamber. He wrote, “If we are lucky enough to win the majority, it will require everyone rowing in a similar direction from Day One to start delivering on the priorities the American people have set for us.” 

He was ranting against social media companies for continuing their support of disinformation spreaders such as Greene and Trump a day later. McCarthy also promised to hold tech companies responsible once Republicans regain power.

—Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 4, 2022


It is unclear if his appeasement efforts are too little and too late for the grudge-holding provocateurs. 

There is still plenty of time to build support. It would be a huge step towards that goal to win the House in November. Republicans have a good chance of winning less than the dozen seats needed during the fall’s midterm elections. 

McCarthy would need to convince the majority of the House that he is worthy of support. Given the current political climate that has splintered GOP and where some Trump-aligned House Members are suggesting they want someone else, it’s not a guarantee.  

Greene was stripped of her committee assignments last fall, a month after she was sworn in. She suggested that McCarthy has not yet clinched the race for speaker. Gaetz’s podcast revealed that McCarthy does not have the support needed to be Speaker. 

Gaetz has made repeated suggestions to nominating Trump as speaker if Republicans win the midterms. It’s unlikely. However, members can vote for anyone they wish, from any party, and even themselves when it’s time to vote to elect a new speaker for the new session. They can legally nominate anyone who is not currently serving in Congress.

One former GOP leadership aide declined the offer of McCarthy’s promotion. He noted that some establishment Republicans might not have been over McCarthy’s 2015 vanishing act, when the speaker position was also open. 

“It’s going be really dependent on how many Republicans remember McCarthy once pulled himself out at the last minute when there was a real opportunity to be speaker,” an aide said about McCarthy’s sudden exit from the race for House Speaker John Boehner. 

Six years ago, McCarthy was politically radioactive amid rumors of extramarital affairs and anger at the fact that he had shouted the quiet part loudly by bragging about how the GOP-led Benghazi probe had destroyed then-presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. His departure from the internal election effectively opened the way for Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin, to reluctantly succeed Boehner. 

Doug Heye, a former House leadership adviser and GOP strategist, stated that McCarthy should be able ignore the haters. Except one. 

Heye wrote that Trump is the biggest wildcard. “The greatest wildcard isn’t a few members who criticize Kevin,” Heye wrote in an e-mail. He also said that Trump’s “threats to retribution hang like Damocles over any Republican he considers insufficiently loyal.” 

Heye stated that it was impossible to predict how the 2022 midterms will play out and how the 2023 speaker’s race will unfold. Insider reported that he said, “There’s too many curtain measuring happening 10 month out.” 

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