House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s, R-Calif., path to becoming House speaker got a lot dicier after Republicans failed to pull off the “red wave” he had predicted for weeks.
Republicans are still likely to take over the House of Representatives but McCarthy’s grasp on the speakership may be a struggle if a slim majority hands significant power to extreme right-wing members like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., according to several House GOP sources who spoke with CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa.
“A restless morn inside congressional GOP,” Costa wrote on Twitter. “Haven’t seen this level of anxiety and loathing since late 2015 as Trump ascended. Widespread consensus that McCarthy still in a position to be speaker if Rs win House. But his allies now wonder: at what cost? with what kind of power?”
He added Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the No. 2 Republican in the House, would most likely rise as a potential challenger to McCarthy should he start “shedding support” — even if Scalise isn’t interested in initiating a fight.
McCarthy, who planned a victory party in D.C. on Tuesday, predicted that his party would clinch the majority within hours while crucial races had yet to be called, The New York Times reported.
“When you wake up tomorrow, we will be in the majority and Nancy Pelosi will be in the minority,” McCarthy said to a mostly empty ballroom early Wednesday morning.
Some House Republicans, like Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., are “just as happy with a slim majority” because it would benefit them, Politico reported.
“I mean, look at what Joe Manchin has done in the Senate as the one deciding vote, right? I would love for the Massie caucus to be relevant. If there’s a one seat majority, my caucus has one person. It’s me. So I can decide whether a bill passes or not,” Massie told the outlet. “I’d be the wrong guy if you’re trying to find somebody who’s heartbroken that we don’t have a 40-seat majority.”
Far-right extremists like Greene and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., both of whom have spoken at white nationalist conferences, would have more sway in a tight GOP House.
Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman said while McCarthy is expected to run for speaker, it may come down to him buying people off “with perks, favors and concessions.”
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In the case that McCarthy is elected speaker, the GOP agenda and messaging will be dictated by the “loudest, craziest voices on the right,” Josh Schwerin, a former spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Hillary Clinton, told Insider. He would remain “speaker in name only.”
Instead of passing legislation that can move in the dealmaking Senate, the group would instead remain focused on investigations into Democrats, appearing on Fox News and “getting Donald Trump to say nice things about them,” he added.
But some are predicting that McCarthy may never become speaker at all.
“Folks, if you’re wondering how Speaker Kevin McCarthy would handle a 6- or 7-seat majority, it’s worth considering there may never be a Speaker Kevin McCarthy at all,” The Atlantic’s Tim Alberta tweeted.
A lot of rank-and-file members of Congress have already started thinking about the idea of a “new energized leadership that is going to be focused on the working class voters,” a GOP source told Fox News White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich.
“Knives are out for Kevin McCarthy,” another GOP source told Heinrich, “if he is under 225 [seats], expect Scalise to make a move quickly for speaker.”
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