California Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy failed to get enough votes to be appointed Speaker of the House for the sixth time in two days of voting in Washington, DC.
The vote for Speaker of the House is usually a low profile affair decided beforehand behind closed doors. In fact, McCarthy’s failure to gain the speakership was the first time a Speaker had not been elected on the first vote since 1923, and only the second time since the U.S. Civil War.
Kevin McCarthy is the embodiment of a career politician. A native of California, he rose through the ranks under the wing of California RINO Republican congressman Bill Thomas. In the 90’s he chaired the California Young Republicans, and then the Young Republican National Federation. In 2002 he was elected to the California State Assembly, where he worked against conservatives in California to bring the party in line with RINO Republicans like Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2003, he became the California Republican Party’s floor leader, and in 2006 he won his mentor’s seat in congress. Once elected to congress he worked tirelessly for the party leadership, starting with Boehner, then Ryan, and later as a surrogate for Donald Trump.
Congressman Bill Thomas, a fierce critic of President Trump, recently described McCarthy in scathing terms.
“The Kevin McCarthy who is now, at this time, in the House isn’t the Kevin McCarthy I worked with. At least from outward appearances. You never know what’s inside, really,” Thomas said. “Kevin basically is whatever you want him to be. He lies. He’ll change the lie if necessary. How can anyone trust his word?”Congressman Bill Thomas, New Yorker Magazine December 19, 2022
Friends and critics alike agree that McCarthy’s greatest political strength is his ideological malleability. This, among other reasons, is why the staunchly conservative Freedom Caucus is opposing him.
Kevin McCarthy on Abortion
In 2019, three years before Roe v. Wade was overturned, the Alabama legislature passed a pro-life law that would have banned most abortions. Exceptions were made for the case of the life of the mother and for “lethal anomalies”, defined as a condition from which an unborn child would die after birth, but not for rape or incest.
Because Roe v. Wade was still in effect, everyone, including Kevin McCarthy, knew that federal courts would quickly block the law. However, before that could happen, then minority leader Kevin McCarthy, came out publicly in opposition of the law. He was sending a message to the Republican Party similar to that sent by Donald Trump earlier this week: Republicans must be pro-abortion in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother.
After the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, the Alabama law that Kevin McCarthy opposed, has kicked into effect, and for the most part, has ended abortion in the state. In 2021, roughly 6,500 children were killed before birth in Alabama. In the second half of 2022 that number has dropped to almost zero.
Following the same playbook used in his early days in the California state legislature, Kevin McCarthy has also thrown his support behind “moderate” Republicans on abortion, voicing his support for allowing Republican members to take their own position on whether children have the right to be born.
Why is the Speaker of the House Important?
The Speaker of the House is one of the most important roles in government because, although any member of congress can introduce legislation, it is the Speaker who decides how legislation is handled, who chairs the committees assigned to review the legislation, and ultimately determines whether the legislation will ever receive a floor vote. In effect, the Speaker of the House is responsible for setting the legislative agenda for the House of Representatives.
Another very important role is that of chief fundraiser for the party in power. Because the Speaker holds such power on the legislative end, they are also best positioned to raise funds from powerful special interest groups. This has made the Speaker take on the role of chief fundraiser for the party. The money raised by the Speaker is then used to run campaigns, which directly affects the ideological makeup of the entire party.
Kevin McCarthy is the heir apparent of John Boehner and Paul Ryan’s Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC started in 2011 to help elect Republicans to the House of Representatives. OpenSecrets reports that the Congressional Leadership Fund spent $227 million in the 2022 campaign cycle alone.
Several media outlets have reported that as part of the ongoing negotiations between Kevin McCarthy and the members of the Freedom Caucus, the Congressional Leadership Fund has agreed to stay out of primary elections in open seats that are considered safe Republican seats. Historically, large campaign donations flow from Super PAC’s like McCarthy’s Congressional Leadership Fund, resulted in establishment candidates beating out those actually preferred by the base. The concession is significant for those who want the Republican party delegation to represent the base and not the Washington DC based lobby groups and establishment operators.
The House is reconvening for its third day of voting was of the publishing of this story.