A weakened leader or an emboldened survivor? – Orange County Registry

By Lisa Mascaro

WASHINGTON — Republican Kevin McCarthy is the new House Speaker, but as painful as it was for him to take the gavel in a landmark election, it might be even harder for the embattled leader to do much with the powerful position — or to keep even.

Like the two most recent Republican speakers, John Boehner and Paul Ryan, McCarthy is taking the helm of a recalcitrant, rebellious majority split like the party itself, between what’s left of the Grand Old Party conservatives and a new tea generation of party-for-Donald -Trump hardliners who prefer almost no big government at all.

The chaos that erupted in four days of voting in the House of Representatives, halting the start of the new Congress, is a prelude to the highly uncertain path that lies ahead as McCarthy seeks to lead a recalcitrant Republican majority to achieve her priorities and to face President Joe Biden’s agenda — and perhaps even prevent the government from being shut down.

“That’s the great part: Because it’s taken so long, we’ve now learned how to govern,” suggested McCarthy, who was first elected in 2006 as he neared victory.

McCarthy endured a grueling week-long struggle to get here, a speaker election unlike any since the eve of the Civil War. A coalition of 20 holdouts refused to support his speakership unless he gave in to their demands to give up some power. He had to go through 14 ballots before eventually winning a majority on the 15th vote, but not before the final chaotic scene of shouting between allies and holdouts had pushed the vote back to early Saturday.

In the end, McCarthy emerges as a weakened orator, one with less authority on paper than his predecessors. That’s especially true because he has agreed to make an important concession to far-right advocates: the restoration of a rule allowing each individual lawmaker to file a “motion to vacate the presidency,” essentially a vote to appoint the speaker of to oust this leadership position.

But in a way, the son of gritty Bakersfield, an oil and farming heartland in central California, is also emboldened as a survivor who withstood one of history’s most brutal power struggles and who prides himself on being an underrated political combatant .

“Apparently I like writing history,” McCarthy quipped at one point during the rough week.

McCarthy bet his political career on Trump’s early support, and it was the former president who delivered when needed, made late-night holdouts on the phone and “helped get those final votes.” When it was finally over, when McCarthy entered the Speaker’s office in the Capitol, the sign with his name was already up.

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Congress faces an agenda of must-pass bills to fund the government, bolster a military whose supplies are depleted by decades of war and aid to Ukraine, approve agricultural programs, and raise the nation’s credit limits to a to avert unprecedented federal bankruptcy.

For the first time as president, Biden will face a divided government, with the House of Representatives in Republican hands and the Senate still, albeit narrowly, controlled by Democrats.

Divided government can be a time when bipartisan agreements are made as parties come together to achieve big priorities. But more commonly, this leads to brinkmanship, which has led to standoffs, standoffs, and shutdowns.

House Republicans are eager to confront Biden over oversight of the White House’s handling of the US-Mexico border, the COVID-19 crisis and other issues, as well as investigations into Biden, his family and his administration.

“I came to Washington to challenge the status quo,” Virginia Republican Bob Good wrote in a comment ahead of his many votes against McCarthy. “I intend to keep that promise.” Good was one of six Republicans to vote present on the final roll call.

McCarthy has been here before.

In 2011, the Tea Party Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives, confronting the agenda of President Barack Obama and Vice President Biden. The movement defied the Washington political establishment and espoused a conservative and libertarian philosophy that advocated less spending, lower taxes, and reducing the national debt and budget deficit.

McCarthy helped recruit the Tea Party class and later became the third-ranking Republican, part of the “Young Guns” with Ryan of Wisconsin and then-Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.

Driven by the Tea Party, they led House Republicans into crisis after crisis trying to cut federal spending during the 2012 “fiscal cliff” and federal shutdown of 2013 when they tried to overturn Obama’s health care program.

In 2015, when then-Rep. Mark Meadows, the North Carolina Republican who led the Freedom Caucus and later served as Trump’s last chief of staff, threatened a “motion to vacate the presidency” — a vote to impeach the speaker — Boehner decided to take early retirement.

McCarthy attempted to take Boehner’s place, but dropped out of the race when it was clear he would have no support from Conservatives. Ryan ended up with the job. But he, too, withdrew in the Trump era.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., abolished the “vacate the chair” rule when Democrats regained control in 2019. Pelosi, a veteran lawmaker who made history as the first woman Speaker, led the House with the strength of experience.

McCarthy has been in office for 15 years, half as long as Pelosi did when she first took the helm, and with far fewer notable legislative victories. In talks with the hardliners last week, he was forced to reintroduce the “motion to vacate the presidency” in order to win over the holdouts. You can hold it against him any day now. “If a CEO doesn’t do his job, you can fire him — the same goes for politics,” said Republican Ralph Norman of South Carolina, one of the holdouts McCarthy persuaded with the rules changes.

The chaos that broke out in the house over the past week could end up being the prelude to the upcoming convention.

“What you’ve seen over the past week,” Norman said, “is how democracy works.”

https://www.ocregister.com/2023/01/07/speaker-mccarthy-a-weakened-leader-or-emboldened-survivor-2/ A weakened leader or an emboldened survivor? – Orange County Registry

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