Narrow House majority could be challenge for Kevin McCarthy

At his election night party on Tuesday, Kevin McCarthy was announced as the next speaker of the House of Representatives.

But Republicans found little reason to celebrate Wednesday as disappointing results poured in from battlefield districts across the country and the much-vaunted red wave failed to materialize.

McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) is still favored as the next speaker – a long-sought but elusive position that would make him the most powerful politician in the lower chamber and second in the line of presidency.

Republicans have a much easier route to securing the 218 House seats needed to win a majority. As of Wednesday morning, several races remained too close to call.

But it also seems increasingly likely that any GOP majority will be much leaner than McCarthy had hoped. And that could complicate McCarthy’s path to the speakership and his ability to govern there.

“Coming into 2023, there are some big storm clouds that he’ll have to navigate and he’ll only have a small majority,” said retired MP Fred Upton (R-Mich.), pointing to the expected showdowns over government Financing and raising the debt ceiling.

A narrow Republican majority would give significant clout to even a handful of rebellious members of the GOP House of Representatives who could withhold their needed votes.

“Whether it’s moderates or Freedom Caucus people who are going to refuse to bow, it could be very difficult. This will be an early test of his oratory,” Upton said.

At McCarthy’s somewhat low-key victory party Tuesday night in Washington, there was speculation whether his grip on the Speaker’s gavel would be affected by the lackluster results.

“I think he’ll eventually become spokesman,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said. But Tuesday’s results suggest “he may have to make more concessions”.

Speaking to the crowd in the hotel’s ballroom early Wednesday morning, McCarthy said his efforts in the last two elections had strengthened the GOP.

“If you believe in freedom, hard work and the American Dream, these results proved there is a place for you in the Republican Party,” he said. “Now, tonight, we’ve built on those accomplishments of two years ago and it’s clear we’re going to take back the house.”

McCarthy’s road to becoming speaker was a bumpy one.

He joined the GOP leadership as Chief Deputy Whip in 2009 during only his second term in the House of Representatives. McCarthy quickly rose through the ranks, becoming Majority Whip in 2011 and Majority Leader in 2014.

However, a high-profile slip cost him a chance to become spokesman a year later when then-Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) resigned from his post.

When House Republicans were looking for Boehner’s successor in 2015, McCarthy told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the party’s special committee on Benghazi was driving Democrat Hillary Clinton’s poll ratings down, suggesting the panel’s goal was more focused on that , harming Clinton’s prospects in the White House when investigating this 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.

McCarthy dropped out of the speaker race, and House Republicans rallied around then-Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).

Ryan retired after the 2018 midterms, leaving McCarthy as the top Republican when Democrats took control of the House of Representatives.

McCarthy has since led the opposition – and transformation – of the House Republican Conference, where arsonists like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) are treated privately, and Trump critic Liz Cheney ( R-Wyo.) was booted from the guide.

It remains to be seen whether McCarthy will face a backlash over the somewhat disappointing Republican results.

Expectations for Republicans were high given President Biden’s low approval ratings, persistent inflation, and the fact that the President’s party almost always suffers large losses over the medium term.

McCarthy and his fellow super-PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, raised more than a quarter billion dollars. This staggering sum was believed to have allowed House Republicans to capitalize on an already benign political environment.

Instead, House Republicans are poised to make only modest gains, though even a one-seat majority would give them committee gavels and subpoena power to probe the Biden administration.

Some House Republicans on Wednesday expressed anger and disappointment at the party’s underperforming.

“The RED WAVE did not happen,” tweeted Rep. Mayra Flores (R-Texas), who won a special election to her South Texas seat earlier this year but lost re-election to incumbent Democrat Vincente Gonzalez. “Republicans and independents stayed home. DON’T COMPLAIN ABOUT THE RESULTS IF YOU DID NOT DO YOUR PART!”

House Republicans are expected to hold their internal leadership election when members return to Washington next week. The only contested races for leadership — at least for now — in the House GOP are majority election and chairmanship of the Republican campaign arm of the House of Representatives, the National Republican Congressional Committee. The vote on the speaker in the House of Representatives will take place when the next Congress meets on January 3rd.

McCarthy and other House Republicans presented their political agenda, the Commitment to America, in September. It consists of four pillars: a strong economy, a secure nation, a future built on liberty, and an accountable government. House Republicans, if in control, are likely to conduct a wide range of investigations into the Biden administration, including the president’s son Hunter, over the next year.

McCarthy has also signaled that the House Republican conference will not issue a “blank check” for Ukraine aid, and Republicans could use a standoff over raising the debt ceiling to try to extort concessions from Democrats to entitlement programs like to cut Social Security and Medicare.

“The American people are ready for a majority proposing a new direction that will put America back on track,” McCarthy said. “Republicans are ready to deliver.”

But first they still have to win the majority. Narrow House majority could be challenge for Kevin McCarthy

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