December 7, 2022

The speaker’s election isn’t until January, so isn’t it premature to anoint Kevin McCarthy as speaker?  No, it isn’t — unless Matt Gaetz and his four amigos hold tight in their suicide mission.  That ain’t happening.  Shorting McCarthy of votes might hand the speakership to woke New York Democrat Hakeem Jeffries (Democrats will vote in lockstep, of course).  Never count out squishy Republicans doing a stupid thing.  A messy fight for the speakership would leave the House in disarray.  Not a good start for Republicans. 

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If the five conservatives who oppose McCarthy’s election — Gaetz, Biggs, Good, Rosendale, and Norman — stand fast, McCarthy would fall a vote shy of election.  But at least one of them won’t stand fast.  McCarthy will secure that solitary vote.  Not all the renegades are going to bag McCarthy knowing that Democrats profit.  Some or all five will strike a deal with McCarthy.  Concessions won — if they’re the right sort — are good things.

With McCarthy as speaker, the five — and lots of other House conservatives — will still enjoy a ton of leverage over the next two years.  They need to use their power to not just push critical legislation but shape it.  The devil is in the details.    

If House conservatives are true to their convictions, and are savvy enough to counter McCarthy’s scheming and resist his bribes, and don’t succumb to appeals from an array of special interests, which are glad to spread around a little love and a lot of money, then they’ll have the power to drive legislative priorities and mold legislation that McCarthy advances.        

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The GOP will enjoy a 222-213 majority.  McCarthy, Steve Scalise (majority leader), and Tom Emmer (majority whip) have their work cut out for them.  They’ll need to hew to a fairly conservative agenda and pursue it aggressively.  Talking the talk but failing to walk the walk should invite bare-knuckled reprisals from rank-and-file conservatives — at least enough of them to bung-up the works.

With McCarthy, it’s not about trust but verify.  It’s about flat-out verify.  The issues that House Republicans ran on — inflation, crime, and the border — must be addressed substantively.  Those are priorities.  Forwarding legislation to the Senate is imperative — even though majority Democrats will scuttle measures, perhaps with the quiet cooperation of jaded Mitch McConnell.  House Republicans should make points to pin the blame often and loudly on Senate Democrats as “obstructionists.”          

Don’t buy the spin that most voters weren’t vitally concerned about the three key issues mentioned.  No, the red wave didn’t materialize.  Yes, Democrats were able to rally blacks, single and younger women, and Millennials with Biden’s now bogus college loan bribe, calls for abortion without boundaries, and base appeals to race.  But all that and prodigious systematized mail-in ballot and early voting drives failed to achieve a majority for Democrats in House contests. 

GOP House candidates won 50.7% of the aggregate vote, while Democrats only snagged 47.8%. 

In part, that majority wasn’t reflected in more GOP House pickups because Democrats outsmarted Republicans in many key redistricting battles (or because they had majorities and controlled the process) or “nonpartisan” redistricting commissions drew lines that disadvantaged Republican candidates. 

That is what it is, but Republicans must keep their eye on issues that motivated a majority of voters.  It matters not only in retaining the House but gaining the Senate — more Democrat seats are at risk in two years — and winning the presidency.