Kevin McCarthy’s Speaker Dreams Rests With the Trumpiest Lawmakers

Leader of the House Minority Kevin McCarthy has long had plans for the speakership, but the prospect of a Republican return to power this November has made him sweat even more Nancy Pelosi‘s job. “I want her to give me that hammer,” he said last year. But to turn that fantasy into reality, his party not only needs to win this fall; it means catering to the whims of the far right, who plan to use their influence to force the California representative down an even more extreme path.

“If you have 30 votes, you have a narrow majority,” Republican MPs Ken Buck Axios said Wednesday, “You can be influential.”

While McCarthy clearly sees this November as an opportunity to finally claim the job he’s been aiming for since 2015, Buck and his fellow House Freedom Caucus see it as their own opportunity to stage a comeback. Not that they went anywhere, of course — it’s just that their ultra-conservative agenda was assimilated into the broader far-right movement that Donald Trump launched six years ago with caucus leaders like them Mark Meadows working for the former President in the White House and Jim Jordan becoming a top ally on Capitol Hill. But with Trump out of the running — at least for now — the Freedom Caucus appears to be trying to reassert itself. And some of its members are doing just that, Axios reports, by withholding their support from McCarthy.

“Someone has to be the conscience of the conference and actually do the things we said we would do on the campaign trail,” the caucus chair said Scott Perrywho played a significant role in Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election, Axios said.

This power play underscores the concessions McCarthy must make to the far right if he wants the speakership — and serves as a preview of what a Republican majority might look like should the party regain control of the chamber, as many observers believe will. Not only would the Freedom Caucus pursue an agenda focused on handicapping Democrats at every turn and getting revenge for Trump — its members would expect to hold leadership positions in Congress, Grid News reported this week. “John Boehner would rather have his eye gouged out than make Jim Jordan committee chairman,” a former GOP assemblyman told the outlet, referring to the retired Republican spokesman. “The current leadership has been much more inclined to welcome people with extreme views into the tent.”

McCarthy, in his naked ambition, has already shown that he is more than willing to make friends with the most extreme members of his party: in addition to voting with them to raise objections Joe BidenIn 2020, he kissed Trump’s ring in Mar-a-Lago after the Jan. 6 riot, helped purge the former president’s critics from the party’s center of power, and defended him Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar when the Democrats wanted to punish them for their outrageous behavior. But for all his own smug radicalism, the GOP Greens have never fully accepted McCarthy as one of their own. “If someone claims to be the leader of our party and our movement, they cannot represent the swamp, the establishment and the bureaucratic permanent state,” the Florida representative said Matt Gaetz said at an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month with the former Trump strategist Steve Banon. “You must support us in exposing these problems. And if Kevin McCarthy won’t let us find out the answers, he shouldn’t be the chairman of the Republican conference.” To which Bannon responded, throwing out another name as Speaker of the House. “Do we want Jim Jordan?” he asked the crowd .

Jordan, for what it’s worth, previously expressed his support for a McCarthy spokesmanship. But the other members of the Freedom Caucus in Jordan have yet to do the same – and may not until they have used all their influence. When asked by Axios if he or the caucus would ultimately support McCarthy, Perry, the chairman, told the outlet, “Talk to me on November 9.” Kevin McCarthy’s Speaker Dreams Rests With the Trumpiest Lawmakers

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