McCarthy, Top Republicans Announce Leadership Bids as GOP Poised to Flip House

McCarthy, Top Republicans Announce Leadership Bids as GOP Poised to Flip House
House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) delivers remarks to supporters during a watch party at the Westin Hotel in Washington on Nov. 9, 2022. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
Joseph Lord
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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other top Republicans are announcing bids for House leadership positions as the GOP appears poised to flip control of the lower chamber.

The results of the Nov. 8 midterm elections failed to meet most Republicans’ expectations, but the GOP is on track to gain control of the House, with a number of races remaining uncalled as of Thursday.
In an announcement that comes as no surprise, GOP Leader McCarthy announced that he will seek the speaker’s gavel.
After it became apparent that Republicans were set to reclaim the House majority, McCarthy announced his candidacy for the speakership in a letter to Republicans.
“While a number of races remain outstanding, I can confidently report that we will join that list, build on our significant gains from last cycle, and achieve our goal of taking back the House,” the California Republican wrote, pointing to the wins in key districts, including Republican Mike Lawler toppling Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.).

“This is no small feat,” McCarthy said. “We have ended one-party Democrat rule in Washington by effectively prosecuting the case against their failed policies while detailing our plan for a new direction with the Commitment to America. Even so, I trust you know that earning the majority is only the beginning. Now, we will be measured by what we do with our majority. Now, the real work begins.”

“That is why I am running to serve as Speaker of the People’s House and humbly ask for your support,” he added.

Yearslong Pursuit

If he’s elected to become the next speaker, it would be the culmination of years of efforts for McCarthy.

Back in 2015, then-Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that he would resign from the post effective Oct. 30 of that year.

McCarthy, who at the time had less than nine years in Congress, threw his hat into the ring for the position, even winning the support of Boehner, who said McCarthy “would make an excellent speaker.”

But at the last minute, McCarthy withdrew his candidacy. He explained that the Republican caucus needed a fresh face for leadership.

“I am not that guy,” McCarthy said at the time.

Boehner has since left office, as has his successor, former Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Republican Opposition to McCarthy

Many Republicans are far from enthusiastic about McCarthy, however.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, said that a McCarthy speakership shouldn’t be viewed as “a foregone conclusion” in view of the lackluster results compared to widespread expectations.

“I would say maybe not so fast. Maybe we should have a good discussion within the confines of our internal body,” Biggs said on FrankSpeech TV’s “The Absolute Truth With Emerald Robinson.”

“Look, we were told we were going to have an incredible, incredible wave. And if that would’ve been the case—any 20, 30, 40-seat margin, anywhere in there you would say—okay, Kevin is the presumptive Republican nominee for speaker,” he continued.

“But I think we need to have a serious discussion. He’s backpedaled on things like impeachment and, in some ways, that indicates a willingness to be weakening the oversight authority that we need to have and the leverage points we need to have in order to deal with a Democrat president.”

Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), among others, have also suggested opposition to a potential Speaker McCarthy.

A senior Republican staffer who asked to remain anonymous freely told The Epoch Times that many Republicans are saying that there “are serious questions about McCarthy’s leadership” and “immediate discussions to find a replacement this week.”

“McCarthy led us to a red trickle—not a red wave,” the staffer explained.

“He hardly beat a party that created the worst border, inflation, fuel, crime, and international crises in modern history. He failed to deliver,” the staffer added.

Republican Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol on in Washington on Dec. 17, 2019. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Republican Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol on in Washington on Dec. 17, 2019. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Support

Others are supporting McCarthy.

For one, current House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has come out in favor of McCarthy.

Scalise says that whatever the “drama in Washington ... I’m supporting Kevin.”

McCarthy is in for a tough fight. Like his Senate equivalent, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Republicans are conflicted about McCarthy as a conservative leader.

Many members, particularly those who align with former President Donald Trump’s brand of populism, may be concerned not only about McCarthy’s conservative credentials, but also about how their constituents would respond to a vote for McCarthy as speaker. Republican voters are too lukewarm in their enthusiasm for McCarthy for the liking of some.

Adding to McCarthy’s troubles, the House seems likely to be Republican by relatively slim margins, meaning that Republicans will need to corral a likely thin majority behind a single candidate.

Unlike votes for party leadership, the speaker’s race is decided by a canvass of the entire House.

Historically, the minority party without fail votes against the majority party’s picks—meaning that McCarthy can count on just under half of the House opposing him by default.

The rest will fall to Republicans. If only a handful of lawmakers oppose McCarthy’s bid, and stand strong in their opposition to McCarthy, it will be enough to deprive McCarthy of the needed support of 50 percent of the lower chamber.

In sum, this means that McCarthy is far from guaranteed to occupy the speaker’s seat next year, though he is the most likely pick for the time being.

Scalise Going For Majority Leader

Scalise also announced on Nov. 9 that he would seek the position of majority leader next year.
“I am asking for your support to be the next House Majority Leader,” Scalise said in a letter to colleagues.

“The American people deserve a House of Representatives that can move the agenda that was promised to them on the campaign trail,” he continued. “As your Majority Leader, I will work relentlessly to usher our vision through the House and show the country how conservative ideas can solve the problems that families are facing.”

Unlike the battle for the speaker’s gavel, majority leader is a position that will be voted on within the GOP caucus. This means that Scalise and other GOP leaders will have an easier time winning their positions than McCarthy.

Scalise currently serves as House minority whip. In his letter, Scalise pulled on his track record as whip to make his case for the position.

“You know my leadership style that I’ve displayed as your Whip for the last eight years,” Scalise wrote. “I have a proven track record of bringing together the diverse array of viewpoints within our conference to build consensus where others thought it impossible.”

He cited his success in helping to pass Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act among other “serious conservative victories.” He also noted his role in ensuring that House Republicans remained solidly united against the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act.

“As your Majority Leader, I will bring the same level of focus and work ethic to the job so we can all deliver for the American people,” Scalise concluded.

As majority leader, Scalise would be responsible for things like scheduling legislation for floor votes, among other responsibilities. The position has in the past propelled lawmakers to the speaker’s seat.

Lawmakers Announce Candidacy for Whip

Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) have both announced bids to become the next Republican whip, a position that has also often propelled lawmakers to the speaker’s seat. Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.), the current chief deputy whip, is also expected to jump into the race.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) speaks at a news conference in Washington on July 21, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) speaks at a news conference in Washington on July 21, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The position is the only one that is officially contested as of yet.

Emmer first got to the House in 2015. Banks currently serves as the chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

“It is clear House Republicans are going to take back the House next Congress,” Banks wrote in a letter obtained by The Epoch Times announcing his candidacy (pdf). “Now we must champion our agenda and prepare to govern as a majority.”

“House Republicans need to remain united, and that means that you, your constituents, and our nation must come first,” he continued. “If I am elected to serve as majority whip, I will always keep my door open for members so that your voice is heard in legislation.”

Banks continued: “Republican voters are upset with the Biden administration, and they’re counting on Republicans to keep our promises. I recognize their frustration and share their concerns.”

Rep Tom Emmer (R-MN) responds to a question at a town hall meeting in Sartell, Minnesota, on Feb. 22, 2017. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Rep Tom Emmer (R-MN) responds to a question at a town hall meeting in Sartell, Minnesota, on Feb. 22, 2017. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

During a call with reporters on Wednesday, Emmer emphasized the success that Republicans had had, even if it fell short of Republicans’ hopes.

As chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC)—the top GOP electioneering and fundraising firm—Emmer pulled on Republicans’ successes in the midterms to bolster his case.

“This is not like any midterm you’ve ever seen because the numbers are not the same. We are playing in blue country,” Emmer said. “We flipped the House for just the third time since 1954—I’m extremely proud of that accomplishment. I’m happy to make my case to my colleagues for the whip role, and there obviously will be more news on that soon.”

Emmer

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) has been whipping up support for Emmer’s claim, citing Emmer’s success as NRCC chairman.

“I’ve lost zero on my whip countdown game, and I’ve gained two. So it’s weird. That’s, like, the conventional wisdom. I’m not seeing that in my numbers,” Reschenthaler said. “At the end of the day, you can’t refute the fact that he was successful two cycles in a row ... So I just think that this time it would be a complete betrayal, not to hand it back to a successful NRCC Chairman who wants a promotion.”

On the other hand, some Republicans are turned off by Emmer’s track record.

For instance, Emmer was one of 47 Republicans who joined Democrats in voting in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, a Democrat bill that would have effectively codified Obergefell v. Hodges.

That 2014 Supreme Court case ruled that the 14th Amendment guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. But some conservatives feel that this was an encroachment on states’ rights by the federal government; thus, Emmer’s support for the bill could hurt him among conservative Republicans.

Still, the race is in too early a stage to predict how it'll shape out.

Whoever wins the contest will be responsible for ensuring GOP support for legislation.

Stefanik Announces Bid for Conference Chair

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) on Nov. 9 declared her intention to seek the role of Republican Conference Chairwoman.

Stefanik currently serves in the same position.

Like her other colleagues, Stefanik applauded the results of the midterms.

“Last night, the American people fired Nancy Pelosi once and for all and elected a Republican House Majority,” Stefanik wrote in a statement announcing her candidacy. “This is the culmination of two years of tireless effort from every Member and candidate to take back the House. Our work must begin immediately to communicate and deliver our conservative agenda to save our country.”

She continued: “Together, House Republicans offered the American people a conservative vision and alternative to the Far Left failed policies of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. In return, the American people have entrusted us with an historic opportunity and we must publicly communicate these policies and deliver results.”

Stefanik pointed to her successes in the role over the past two years.

House Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) speaks during a town hall event in Washington, on March 1, 2022. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
House Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) speaks during a town hall event in Washington, on March 1, 2022. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

As conference chair, Stefanik wrote, “I have been laser focused on keeping my promises to you and delivering results for each and every Member.”

The head of a House party conference is responsible for presiding over meetings of Republican members and expanding Republicans’ presence online and in media.

If she’s re-elected, Stefanik said, she will focus on: “1. A disciplined, unified message on offense every single day supporting our agenda; 2. An effective, rapid response strategy to push back on the biased mainstream media in real time; 3. [Elevating] all voices of our Conference to highlight the extraordinary backgrounds and talents of every Member; [and]  4. Communicate, legislate, and WIN!”

Bolstering her claim, Stefanik added, is her success in turning a formerly blue district red.

Before Stefanik’s first election to New York’s 21st Congressional District in 2015, the district had been held by Democrats since 1993.

“I will be the only Member of the House Republican leadership team who has flipped their district from Democrat to Republican,” Stefanik wrote. “We must ensure that our Republican Conference messaging works for all Members in all districts across America.”

She concluded: “Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to earning your vote to continue to serve as House Republican Conference Chair.”

Democrat Leadership

Because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not yet conceded the House despite a bleak outlook, electioneering for new leadership positions among Democrats has not yet begun officially.

Still, the octogenarian old guard of the Democratic Party—including Pelosi as well as members like Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.)—could find themselves facing tough competition from newer and younger members.

Since the blue wave of 2018 brought a litany of young Democrats to the lower chamber, the new generation of Democrats has increasingly struck out against the party establishment.

In 2018, Democrats extracted a promise from Pelosi that she would not seek the role of party leader again. This was a promise she reneged on in 2020—and one that she seems willing to renege on again.

But some Democrat lawmakers have increasingly called for new leadership moving forward.

After Hoyer delayed a planned vote on a bill that would have banned stock trading by members of Congress, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) blasted the “failure of House leadership,” saying it showed that Democrats need new leaders.

She called the delay “yet another example of why I believe that the Democratic Party needs new leaders in the halls of Capitol Hill, as I have long made known.”

Reps. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) and Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) are among others in the caucus who have gone as far as calling for a “new generation” of Democrats to take over from President Joe Biden and other current leaders.

The calls fit into larger divisions among Democrats.

Generational fractures between old-guard Democrats and young lawmakers who won their seats in 2018 have begun to tear at the seams of the party, and seem set to continue to do so after disappointing midterm results for Democrats.

Democrats’ caucus includes three of the five youngest members of Congress—including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), 33, Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), 33, and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), 34.

Though the average age of House Democrats is 59 years old, according to data from FiscalNote, party leadership has an average age of almost 72 years old, including three octogenarians.
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