Will the second time be good for Kevin McCarthy? After a failure in 2015, the California representative hopes to become speaker of the House on Tuesday, two months after the Republicans’ narrow victory in the midterms. But uncertainty hangs over the insurgency of a dozen rebellious elected conservatives and minimal room for maneuver for McCarthy. Who wants to avoid a historic route: It is 100 years since all speakers were elected in the first ballot.
Who is Kevin McCarthy?
First elected in 2006, the representative of the Bakersfield region, a rural area in central California, rose through the ranks of the Republican Party, careful not to hold anyone up. In 2015, he was the favorite to become Speaker after John Boehner’s resignation. But a blunder in an interview in which he suggested the Benghazi Commission of Inquiry’s purpose was primarily to woo Hillary Clinton and accusations of infidelity caused him to withdraw his candidacy. After Paul Ryan retired in 2018, McCarthy became the Republican minority leader.
Why is his victory not guaranteed?
The red tide did not wash over Congress in November. With 222 elected Republicans out of 435, Kevin McCarthy owes only four defections to stay above the absolute majority (218). However, he could be elected with fewer votes if some Republicans simply vote “present” and not against him. In recent weeks, McCarthy has courted lawmakers from the Freedom Caucus, a far-right Trumpist parliamentary group. He promised there would be no blank checks to Ukraine and to launch a parliamentary investigation into Hunter Biden. On Sunday, he agreed to reinstate a rule that allows a motion to be made to the Speaker by a Speaker with just five votes. He convinced Marjorie Taylor Greene, but nine elected officials, including Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar, are threatening not to endorse him.
Why the Republican Party Could Sink into “Chaos”?
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich slammed his fist on the table and said it was “McCarthy or chaos.” If McCarthy is not elected outright, negotiations will begin before a second round, and others if necessary. The Californian-elect could try one last time to seduce his opponents, but at the risk of seeing opponents emerge like his lieutenant Steve Scalise, Trump loyalist Jim Jordan or North Carolina representative Patrick McHenry. Since the Tea Party’s breakthrough in 2009, the Republican Party has been divided between the centrists and the ultraconservatives. Even if McCarthy is elected, he risks being a fragile boss with a union that could explode at the first hurdle, such as the budget vote.