By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Kevin McCarthy woke up Saturday morning with a long-held dream fulfilled: After four days of deadlock, he was elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives, becoming the most powerful member of the Republican Party.
But that role could turn into a nightmare because it requires leading a caucus that strongly rejects leadership. Conservatives have regularly criticized Senate Republican top Mitch McConnell for agreeing to compromises of any kind with Democrats and earlier this week rejected former President Donald Trump’s call to quickly fall in line behind McCarthy.
The 57-year-old Californian showed persistence as he made it through 15 rounds of voting and dismantled what had been a group of 20 right-wing hardline opponents, finding compromises that would have drawn most of them into his camp. He told reporters Friday night that he would be a more effective leader because of the lengthy process.
“Because it’s taken so long, we’ve now learned how to groom. So now we’ll be able to get the job done,” McCarthy said. “At the end of the day, we will be more effective, more efficient and certainly the government will be more accountable.”
McCarthy agreed to major concessions to secure a role that is second in line in the Oval Office behind Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris, including a rule that means any of the 435 members of the House could force a vote to remove her at any time.
The Republicans’ weaker-than-expected performance in the November election left them with a narrow majority of 222-212 and gives outsized power to a small group of right-wing extremists. They railed against McCarthy, who has been minority leader since 2019, accusing him of being weak and too open to compromise with President Joe Biden and his Democrats, who also control the US Senate.
“We don’t rely on Mr. McCarthy with power, because we know who he’s going to use it for. And we’re concerned it won’t be for the American people,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, who dealt McCarthy one last humiliation Friday night. when he cost him the penultimate vote by refusing his support.
But a compromise will be necessary in a divided government, and McCarthy’s concessions increase the risk that the two sides will fail to reach an agreement when the federal government reaches its $31.4 trillion debt limit by year’s end. . Failure to reach a deal, or even a long standoff, could lead to a default that would shake the global economy.
McCarthy shrugged off suggestions that the deal could weaken his power.
“That doesn’t give me any problems or concerns whatsoever,” McCarthy told reporters, describing his deal with critics as a “very good” deal that “empowers the members.”
He also agreed to pursue deep cuts in government spending to achieve a balanced federal budget in 10 years, starting in October, and promised his hardline critics more influence on key committees.
The week-long deadlock on his candidacy has emboldened individual lawmakers, at a time when a slim Republican majority allows him to drop no more than four votes to enact legislation.
McCarthy spent his adult life in politics, first as a congressional staffer and then a state legislator before being elected to the House in 2006. He has already unsuccessfully run for speaker once, in 2015, and the election represents the pinnacle of his career.
But the speaker’s post has proved a formidable challenge for Republicans in recent years, with John Boehner stepping down from the post in 2015 after a fight with insurgent conservatives.
Boehner’s successor Paul Ryan, a frequent target for conservatives, opted not to seek re-election in 2018 when then-President Trump shifted the party’s focus from Ryan’s tax priorities to immigration and security issues. culture war.
McCarthy ran afoul of hardliners when he publicly acknowledged that Trump was responsible for the deadly January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol, just days after the violence. He has since repeatedly expressed allegiance to the former president.
On Saturday, Trump sought credit for electing the new speaker, posting a video on his Truth Social network of McCarthy thanking Trump for his support, captioning it: “Thank you Kevin. It was a great honor.”
The White House said Biden spoke with McCarthy on Saturday to congratulate him.
McCarthy visited at least 34 states to campaign for more than 165 candidates before the midterm. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a group related to him, has contributed more than $160 million to help Republican House candidates. McCarthy has sent candidates $6.5 million from his own campaign and four other entities under his control, according to his campaign team.
But to reach the speaker position, he also agreed not to interfere in future Republican primaries, even if it meant promoting candidates he believed were more likely to win a general election than right-wing rivals.
“Kevin is a good man. He is a man of God,” Republican Rep. Mike Garcia said in a McCarthy nomination speech Friday. “He IS a patriot. He IS a leader who has brought this conference to our current majority for the past four years. These things are unassailable.”
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone, Cynthia Osterman and Daniel Wallis)