GOP Congressman: ‘Kevin McCarthy Isn’t in Control of the Conference’
As House Republicans grapple with a ‘decaf version of the KKK,’ a ‘bungled’ message around the American Rescue Plan, and the popularity of the American Jobs Plan and the millions of jobs it will create, some in the House Republican conference are openly asking if Minority Leader McCarthy is up for the job.
“Kevin McCarthy isn’t in control of the conference,” a Republican lawmaker told The Daily Beast. “He’s just along for the ride, just like the rest of us.”
“At some point an adult needs to take over,” said a senior GOP aide. “Being everyone’s best friend is not an effective leadership strategy.”
And another senior GOP aide said that for a guy who reminded “everyone who would listen” that he took out Steve King, “he’s been shockingly silent on MTG and the other.”
Key Points From The Shockingly Honest Items Republicans Gave The Daily Beast
- When House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) began criticizing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) during House debate on Tuesday, the QAnon-curious lawmaker quickly sought out a nearby ally on the floor: Kevin McCarthy.
- Greene went over to the House Republican leader, sat down next to him, and the two began whispering to one another while Hoyer spoke.
- The Democratic leader was speaking on Greene’s outlandish, offensive social media history, which included a past endorsement of a tweet calling for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s assassination.
- But that brief scene on the House floor Tuesday might encapsulate McCarthy’s leadership strategy in 2021: distract, deflect, defend, and ignore.
- Instead of ruling with an iron fist, McCarthy has preferred a softer touch. He has kept his party’s most controversial lawmakers in the fold, largely choosing to turn the focus around on Democrats instead of dwelling on the troubling views springing forth from his own ranks.
- McCarthy has issued condemnations of Greene’s rhetoric and behavior, but he’s also defended her over and over again. Where former top Republicans in the House—like Paul Ryan and John Boehner—would have kept their distance from the fringiest elements of the GOP conference, McCarthy has kept them close. Literally. When McCarthy sat with Greene on Tuesday, he was also seated next to Rep. Clay Higgins (a Louisiana Republican who claimed last year that his wife had the gift of premonitions) and another embattled Republican: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
- Gaetz is under federal investigation for allegedly paying for sex with underage girls. But McCarthy has avoided doling out any kind of discipline to Gaetz as long as formal charges haven’t been brought forward.
- Unlike how he handled former Rep. Steve King (R-IA)—who McCarthy stripped committee assignments from over King’s history of racist remarks—McCarthy seems loath to do anything of the sort against any of the numerous lawmakers now saying and doing troubling things these days.
- Privately, some Republicans will acknowledge the reality of that mess.
- “Kevin McCarthy isn’t in control of the conference,” a Republican lawmaker told The Daily Beast. “He’s just along for the ride, just like the rest of us.”
- “At some point an adult needs to take over,” said a senior GOP aide. “Being everyone’s best friend is not an effective leadership strategy.”
- And another senior GOP aide said that for a guy who reminded “everyone who would listen” that he took out Steve King, “he’s been shockingly silent on MTG and the other.”
- The GOP leader's office declined comment on this story. But McCarthy is all smiles, casting himself as the leader that will bring Republicans back to power. Even critics cede that point, noting the party’s surprise gains in the 2020 election and the leader’s prodigious ability as a fundraiser.
- McCarthy, however, is dealing with more than a little crazy. Controversy has been unrelenting in the House GOP since the start of the new session. Several House Republicans, like Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Cawthorn, spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the deadly attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. Others, like Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), the chairman of the archconservative Freedom Caucus, reportedly coordinated with the rally’s organizers on the far right.
- When the mob was cleared from the House chamber, 147 members—the majority of the House GOP—voted to object to the Electoral College anyway. Some Republicans still recall the confusion in the lead-up to that vote, when McCarthy didn’t take a position on whether he’d vote to object or certify the results. He ended up voting to object.
- Afterward, McCarthy couldn’t keep his own story on the insurrection straight, perplexing plenty in the party. At first, the GOP leader said that President Trump—his close ally and benefactor—bore “responsibility” for the Capitol attack. A week later, he backtracked, saying he thought Trump didn’t provoke it and that “everybody” had a responsibility to encourage peaceful demonstration. By the end of January, McCarthy and Trump were photographed together, grinning, at Mar-a-Lago. Accounts that the two had a blow-up phone call on Jan. 6, in which Trump callously suggested the attack was justified, shocked during Trump’s impeachment trial, but seemingly failed to change their relationship.
- But in the eyes of plenty of Capitol Hill Republicans, McCarthy’s knack for accommodation has created its own set of problems. One came last week, when Punchbowl News reported that Greene and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) were moving to form an “America First Caucus” predicated on promoting a restoration of “Anglo-Saxon” political values to Congress and the country and opposing immigration—a move that made past racist dog whistles in the GOP look subtle by comparison.