Last week, Congressman Kevin McCarthy was the presumptive soon-to-be House Speaker following John Boehner’s announced resignation. McCarthy was thought to be a “workable bridge” between establishment Republicans and their more conservative and increasingly frustrated, legislative counterparts.
That bridge has just been blown apart via a combination of McCarthy’s Benghazi Committee gaffe and certain Republican operatives intent on moving the party in a leaner and necessarily meaner direction that has it for the first time in a very long time, actually responding to the needs of those whose votes put them into office in the first place.
Above: Congressman Kevin McCarthy stood up before the Republican Caucus just prior to the votes being cast and declared he was not the right man for the job. The room went silent, and then behind the scenes, chaos ensued.
There were three primary weapons utilized by opponents of the pending McCarthy Speaker vote.
The first, and simplest, was McCarthy’s startlingly inept choice of words in describing the Benghazi Committee investigations as being politically motivated against Hillary Clinton vs an entity that simply wants the truth. The Clinton campaign is already using his words against the Republican Party. It was a glaring “not ready for prime time” moment that had some supporters questioning if he was capable of handling the higher profile position of House Speaker.
Second is a long-lingering and still potential ethics investigation into some of Congressman McCarthy’s past dealings. This effort was in no way related to the recent political stunt ethics charge brought by Democrats just yesterday against Mr. McCarthy following his Benghazi Committee comments. It is said some among the Republican “Freedom Caucus” let it be known that McCarthy had far too much baggage to be allowed a home in the Speaker’s office. It was a none too subtle and hardball political threat that clearly had an impact given McCarthy’s removing himself from contention no more than forty-eight hours later. Speculation is that shortly after McCarthy’s now infamous Benghazi remarks, Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, who chairs the Freedom Caucus, personally stood in front of Congressman McCarthy and declared he would never be Speaker of the House.
Third, and perhaps most interesting, was the alleged intervention by a small but influential group of Republican donors who made it clear it was time the party “found a spine” and that the next Speaker must represent that new, tougher approach currently so popular among Republican voters. It appears likely this third factor was directly related to both the second and first.
The end result is Kevin McCarthy’s influence within the Republican Party is now greatly diminished. Word is his current position as Majority Leader will not last the year. The very same anti-establishment sentiment dominating the 2016 presidential race is working its way through the Republican leadership, and Congressman McCarthy’s brand of ideologically mushy, middle-of-the-road politicking had no place within that new direction.
The question that remains is who will emerge as the next front-runner to replace the equally mushy John Boehner as the next Speaker of the House. That particular battle is now underway and being waged with a ferocity not seen in decades.
(UPDATE: D.C. Whispers was just informed that it was a “significant” Republican donor who apparently holds the keys to John Boehner’s future employment prospects who told Mr. Boehner to issue his public support of Kevin McCarthy. This effort in no way intended to assist McCarthy in securing enough votes to win the Speakership but rather, just the opposite. It was a Machiavellian gesture that consolidated those opposed to his nomination because it effectively covered Congressman McCarthy in the political stink that is John Boehner.)
(UPDATE #2: Apparently the interaction between Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan was more volatile than initially reported. McCarthy is said to have personally extended an invitation to Jordan to meet inside his office with the intent of offering a prominent leadership role in the new Congress in exchange for Congressman Jordan’s support. When Jordan refused that initial offer, McCarthy’s tactics took on a decidedly more threatening tone. This was not well received by Congressman Jordan, a former Division I national wrestling champion and Ohio State wrestling coach, who is said to have then stood up, pointed down at Congressman McCarthy and declared, “You will never be Speaker. NEVER.”)