McCarthy’s Road to the Speakership

He is so close.

Source: Trump White House

To, no doubt, everyone’s relief, Breitbart has an exclusive: Exclusive – Trump Backs McCarthy for Speaker, Tells Opponents to Stand Down: ‘I Think He Deserves the Shot’. Well, perhaps to Kevin McCarthy’s relief, anyway. After all, if he couldn’t at least get an anemic endorsement from Trump, what else was his trip to Mar-a-Lago for? (The interview linked above mostly quotes Trump criticizing Paul Ryan and talking about his winning percentage in endorsements, which includes some delusional math, which I am sure is a shock to the reader). 

A quick reminder, in case it is needed. We know that right after the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, McCarthy was angry and blamed Trump. This was all in private, of course (but was recorded for posterity). But not long thereafter he flew down to Florida to kiss the ring of the former President because he clearly saw that as a necessary act of public obeisance on his road to the speakership.

All this is a prelude to the following from Politico: McCarthy’s ongoing speaker battle paralyzes House.

Kevin McCarthy’s imperiled speakership bid is threatening to incapacitate Republicans during a crucial planning period, virtually guaranteeing a sluggish start for the new House majority.

The GOP leader on Thursday took the unusual step of punting conferencewide races for committee leadership slots until after his speaker election on Jan. 3, a maneuver that could help insulate him from disgruntled members who fall short in those contests and their allies.


Not to mention, if the speakership battle does extend beyond Jan. 3, government employees in the House who are enrolled in the 10-year student loan forgiveness program may face breaks in service, which can affect both retirement and whether they qualify for loan forgiveness. And if the speakership vote goes as long as the 15th, committee staff essentially lose their jobs and their pay.

Meanwhile, sayeth the WSJ editorial board: Republican Party Masochists in Congress

FILED UNDER: 2022 Election, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. James Joyner says:

    The Related Posts feature in the sidebar reminded me of something that I’d forgotten: we had a similar situation in 2015, when John Boehner stepped down:

    Representative Kevin McCarthy on Thursday abruptly took himself out of the race to succeed John A. Boehner as House speaker, apparently undone by the same forces that drove Mr. Boehner to resign.

    “I have the deepest respect and regard for each member of the conference and our team as a whole,” Mr. McCarthy said in a prepared statement shortly after a meeting in which he told Republicans of his decision. “It is imperative for us to unite and work together on the challenges facing our country.

    “Over the last week it has become clear to me that our conference is deeply divided and needs to unite behind one leader. I have always put this conference ahead of myself. Therefore I am withdrawing my candidacy for speaker of the House. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to help move our conference’s agenda and our country forward.”

    Boehner stayed on for a few more weeks until Paul Ryan could be persuaded to take the job.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Yup, R’s in chaos. A reminder that the party in power attracts the attention and analysis.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    McCarthy is such a contemptible human being, standing for nothing and willing to publicly debase himself and also willing to accept an almost total neutering of the office just so he can get the title. Rightly or wrongly, I think of past Speakers as tough and jealous of their power and unafraid to wield it. McCarthy seems the complete opposite of that.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: The Speakership left Ryan frustrated and out of Congress and left Boehner literally in tears. And yet, as you say, McCarthy seems willing to debase himself in every way to get it. I’m baffled by the psychology of someone who will work so hard for such an obviously doomed prize.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    There is a very good reason I don’t read the Wall Street Journal. They lie, just flat out lie.

    The result could be a spending bill nearly as large as the $1.9 trillion March 2021 Covid relief bill that triggered inflation. The omnibus bill would lock in baseline domestic non-defense spending far above levels that would have been expected in 2023 given normal increases pre-Covid. Defense would also get a spending boost, but the omnibus would set the budget through next September.

    Ah yes, the covid relief bill caused inflation to soar all over the world.

    The new House GOP majority wouldn’t be able to use their power of the purse to influence priorities until fiscal 2024. The higher spending, and thus larger budget deficits, would also make pro-growth tax cuts that much more difficult to sell politically. If there’s a recession, Democrats will propose even more spending, and Republicans will propose what?

    Oh yeah, higher spending causes larger deficits, NOT the tax cuts the GOP is wedded to as the one size fits all solution to every problem. Yet, every time the Republicans get the power in DC, they never reduce the deficits, they increase them with their tax cuts. Then DEMs follow and reduce them.

  6. wr says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: But these are PRO-GROWTH tax cuts, it says so right in the editorial. I guess that means they go to both billionaires and trillionaires.

  7. CSK says:

    Trump is backing McCarthy, which is making the MAGAs very unhappy.

  8. Mu Yixiao says:


    Did the $1.9T spending bill come with => $1.9T in new revenue?

    If the answer isn’t a clear affirmative, then… yes, the $1.9T COVID relief bill increased the deficit. And… I haven’t heard anything about raising $1.9T in new revenue, so… I’m fairly sure it increased the deficit.

    That’s not the question to ask (because you’ll lose on the facts). The question to ask is “Was it worth it?”–and that’s one that’s open for debate.

    One of the reasons I’m not a democrat (even though I agree with almost all of their social planks) is because they never ask the question: “What will this cost?” Not just in “money right now”, but in debt for the next generation, in social capital, in real effects on actual people [1] .

    California–which is going to ban the sale of ICE vehicles and make everyone buy electric–can’t handle the tiny percentage of EVs that are already in place. They’ll need to increase infrastructure and generation by an order of magnitude–and then double that–just to keep up.

    The modern Republican party is the party of obstruction and idiocy.

    The modern Democratic party is the party of pipe dreams and leaping before you look.

    And it is absolutely valid for taxpayers to ask “What is this going to cost us–right now, and over the next 3 generations?”

    [1] Europe (especially Scandewegia) has been banning ICE vehicles, and pushing EVs. Everything must be electric! Guess what? The grid can’t handle that.

    Switzerland may ban electric vehicles from being used except for “essential” purposes this winter as government officials plan for a possible energy crisis during the winter months.

    Everyone has been told to buy electric cars… which they now won’t be able to use.

    Umm… ooops?

  9. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I believe that if you reread Mr. Ozark’s message, you would realize that he is not claiming that large amounts of spending can increase the deficit, but that the selective outrage of the WSJ editorial board finds that deficits caused by paying for things that the American public wants and needs is a terrible thing while deficits caused by shoveling money to billionaires in the form of tax cuts is really just find and not worth noting.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    They’ll need to increase infrastructure and generation by an order of magnitude–and then double that–just to keep up.

    And they will. There may be hiccups along the way, but it needs to get done and so it will get done. And the do-nothings will carp and complain from the sidelines and yet still reap the same benefits as the rest of us, just as they always do.

  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    but it needs to get done and so it will get done.

    I admire your confidence and hope you’re right. Still, I note that there are significant blocks to creating new power plants already in place–especially for green power–and the California power grid is not an entity unto itself, and Congress has already balked at improving the overall power grid several times.

    But “always let your reach exceed your grasp. Else what’s a world for?”

  12. Mu Yixiao says:


    And they will. There may be hiccups along the way, but it needs to get done and so it will get done

    Oh… Aren’t you just Miss Rosy Optimist.

    How’s that high-speed rail project coming? (Proposed in 1996, approved in 2008. In 2022? There are some “business plans” in the works.).

    How’s solar going? Oh… yeah… California is cutting incentives for solar adoption.

    Nuclear? Ummm…. it took $1B from the feds to keep the last nuclear plant open.

    Hyroelectric! {looks at news reports; 50% reduction in production}. oh.

    But they have plenty of capacity, right? Umm… nope. Rolling brownouts.

    California can’t provide enough electricity to meet current demand. Please explain how the queen of NIMBY is going to build up enough generation–and the state-wide infrastructure to support it–within 10 years, to move to 100% electric vehicles, when a simple train has been in the works for 35 years and hasn’t carried a single person a single meter. (I suggest you look up CEQA)

  13. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao: People who actually do things know that actually accomplishing something is always harder than yammering about it. Almost all the bridges, roads, hospitals, parks, water treatment plants, and everything else we take for granted took longer and were more expensive than when they were proposed. And thank god that they are still here. Closing the ozone hole, keeping our rivers from bursting into flame, rebuilding our fisheries were all hard tasks that were messy to begin with and will remain messy as long as there is more to be accomplished. And the people who worked on them (and yes, decades ago that included Republicans) were constantly nay-sayed by lazy do-nothings that had never tried to achieve anything for the public good in their entire lives, and would be incompetent at it even if they tried.

    I don’t really consider myself a member of the Democratic Party except insofar as it allows me to vote in the primaries, which are tantamount to the generals in my heavily blue city. But the Dems have made real progress on vital issues and, since Reagan, have done it all on their own. Republicans and your boys, the Libertarians, have only complaints and sarcasm. They don’t find solutions, they find fault with those that do. They haven’t done a single thing on pollution or energy or health care or anything else useful since well before the turn of the millennium. Instead, they have been coopted by the billionaires who benefit quite nicely from the way things are now and know that no matter what happens a billionaire will always be able to take the best of what’s left from the weak. Their stooges in the so-called Conservative movement have either been knowingly coopted, i.e corrupt, or are too gullible to realize they’ve been coopted, i.e. pathetic.

  14. DK says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    California can’t provide enough electricity to meet current demand. Please explain how the queen of NIMBY is going to build up enough generation–and the state-wide infrastructure to support it–within 10 years, to move to 100% electric vehicles, when a simple train has been in the works for 35 years and hasn’t carried a single person a single meter.

    Right wing propaganda is fun, but it’s conservative Texas that can’t keep the lights on to its fealty to crony corporatism and deregulation. For similar reasons, Florida is now turning into a literal disaster area, now the country’s most expensive housing market in part because of the cost of insuring conservative failure. California has no such problems, having just successfully managed in 2022 what should have been — based on record drought and heat — the worst ever fire season, without blackouts or widespread destruction.

    Liberals tend to learn from past mistakes and implement the necessary changes. The right never does.

    As California has just surpassed Germany to become the world’s #4 economy by itself, with one the nation’s largest budget surplus to boot (due to wise, successful, unified Democratic governance) I’m sure California will do an adequate job at finding solutions to its big nfrastructure dreams.

    Meanwhile, here’s to hoping red Mississippi can one day again dream of being able to guarantee its residents always have drinkable water.