Soh, Kevin McCarthy hadn’t imagined it. After the summer break, doubts arose about a red wave in the congressional elections. But they had evaporated in the final phase of the election campaign. The Republican’s disappointment that he is dealing with tight conditions in the House of Representatives is all the greater.
Majority is majority, said McCarthy, announcing his candidacy for speaker right after the election to nip a staffing debate in the bud. Nevertheless, he is not spared: in the parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, he was able to assert himself against an opposing candidate. But 31 MPs voted against him. He has to take the real hurdle in January in the plenary session of the first chamber. Then he needs at least 218 votes.
Fragile relationship with Trump
The 57-year-old Californian, who first entered Congress in 2007, was recently presented with the demands of the “America first” Republicans. McCarthy knows this already: in 2015 he wanted to run for office, but withdrew due to opposition from the right wing of the parliamentary group. Today, the wing is determined by Trumpists.
McCarthy believed that he had accommodated them. Before the election, he drew up a “Commitment to America” that formulates his legislative agenda. Securing the southern border, deregulating energy policy and fighting inflation have priority. He also made it clear that he wants to scrutinize Biden’s decisions, such as the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. He also wants to set up a committee of inquiry to look into the business practices of the president’s son, Hunter Biden.
That’s not enough for the Trumpists: they want to shut down the federal administration in order to force the president to cut spending. Some are even calling for impeachment against Joe Biden. McCarthy’s challenge will be to dispel the impression that he is a Trumpist puppet. His relationship with the former president is fragile. The storming of the Capitol had almost led to a rupture, but McCarthy ruefully traveled to Trump in Mar-a-Lago to prevent his faction from splitting. In order to secure the candidacy for 2024, Trump is likely to try to harness the congressional Republicans for his purposes.
Whether McCarthy can hold out for two years is an open question. So far it has proven to be flexible. Born in Bakersfield, the son of a firefighter still lives in his southern California hometown. The married business economist, who has two children, has so far managed to keep his private life out of the public eye.