Home » McCarthy Gets Tough With the Right
Featured Global News News Politics United States

McCarthy Gets Tough With the Right

After months tiptoeing around the conservatives who have made his speakership a constant high-wire act, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy appears to be fed up — and ready to fight.

The embattled speaker could spark a showdown in the coming days under a plan his leadership team discussed yesterday, according to people familiar with the talks. With 12 days till a government shutdown and more than 15 conservatives lined up in opposition to a proposed GOP stopgap, the plan is simple: Dare them to vote against it.

The holdouts might very well do that, the thinking goes, but at the cost of isolating themselves from the rest of the party by sinking a bill their fellow Freedom Caucus allies helped write — one that takes steps to slash spending and fortify the border, both key GOP issues.

That would set McCarthy & Co. up to blame those holdouts for undercutting the party’s negotiating hand with Democrats, ultimately leading to the Senate jamming the House with a shutdown-averting stopgap without any Republican concessions.

“I want votes on this,” McCarthy told members in a private leadership meeting last night, according to a person present who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Others in the room agreed that any holdouts needed to be put on record.

It’s a more aggressive posture than the speaker has previously adopted.

McCarthy’s default approach to his critics on the right has been appeasement, giving them pretty much everything they want and more. But lately, he’s been going after his detractors.

It started last week when he dared conservatives to try to oust him from the speakership in a curse-laden private House meeting. It continued over the weekend on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” where he vowed to hold a vote on a stalled Pentagon funding bill and “show the American public who’s for the Department of Defense, who’s for funding our military, who’s for giving them a pay raise and taking the wokism out.”

He’s also engaging in personal terms with some of his persistent critics, such as mocking the constant threats posted online by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). “Oh my god, someone tweeted about me?” McCarthy snickered to reporters yesterday before criticizing another antagonist, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.).

After Spartz called him a “weak speaker” who needed to fight harder, McCarthy took a swipe at Spartz for deciding to retire: “If Victoria is concerned about fighting stronger, I wish she would run again and not quit.”

The moves could very well blow up in his face, sparking a confrontation that could ultimately end his political career. On the other hand, the rest of the caucus has been waiting on McCarthy for months to tell conservatives to — in polite terms — pound sand.

They’ll be cheering him on this morning in a closed-door GOP conference meeting, where McCarthy is expected to make the case that Republicans have to unite on spending lest they get steamrolled by the Senate.

He’s getting some help from prominent hardliners, including Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who helped write the CR deal and spent much of his day yesterday selling the agreement and — appearing on Guy Benson’s podcast — bemoaning some of his conservative colleagues “who like to beat their chest and say ‘this isn’t pure enough.’”

McCarthy got an encouraging sign from the House Rules Committee Monday night after the panel’s nine Republicans stuck together to send the GOP stopgap proposal to the floor.

But it would only take five holdouts on floor to stop the plan in its tracks, and there are more than enough members who have publicly slammed the bill to do just that.

GOP centrists, meanwhile, are talking Plan B’s. A plan hatched by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus for a “clean” CR that would also include disaster relief funding came up during the leadership meeting yesterday.

When Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) told colleagues that his fellow centrist Republicans could work with Democrats to move a CR if the GOP’s plans fall through, the person present said, no one in the meeting pushed back.

Already there have been discussions among the moderates about dusting off a discharge petition Democrats filed during the debt-limit standoff earlier this year and repurposing it for a CR, or engaging in other unorthodox legislative maneuvers to get to an up-or-down vote.

“That’s one of the few ways McCarthy survives this,” a senior GOP aide told us. “Somebody forces this, and he can say: ‘Look, I don’t want this, but these guys are going to do it anyway.’”