House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been in campaign mode, scrambling to lock down the 218 votes he’ll need in House elections to secure his role as speaker. Given the tensions within the House Republican conference — between the McCarthy loyalists and the small but mighty MAGA-infused Freedom Caucus members opposing McCarthy’s speakership bid — his campaign has inevitably been structured around wooing his party’s furthest-right members. This has required him to dangle a few bizarre carrots.
So far five conservative members — Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Bob Good (R-VA), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) and Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) — have publicly said they will not support McCarthy’s speakership bid. (One of them, Biggs, announced his own bid for the speakership this morning.) But the Freedom Caucus members insist there are plenty of others who are quietly not on board with McCarthy.
Here are five promises McCarthy made in a bid to win the speakership:
Investigations. Investigations. And More Investigations.
McCarthy has spent the entirety of the Biden administration previewing potential investigations into a handful of names and issues that get Fox News viewers’ blood boiling.
Last month, reports surfaced that McCarthy promised Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) he’d allow the House to tackle some of her favorite pet projects, including the Justice Department and, for some reason, current Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over conspiracy theories that rioters arrested for their participation in the Jan. 6 attack have been mistreated, according to reporting by the New York Times.
And during Thanksgiving week, in a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, McCarthy called for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign or face an impeachment inquiry next year over his handling of the “border crisis.”
“If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign, House Republicans will investigate every order, every action and every failure to determine whether we can begin an impeachment inquiry,” McCarthy said.
The move was a carrot for the right-wing members of his caucus who will soon lead the House Homeland Security Committee.
There have also been indications from some House Republicans that the party plans to launch investigations into the Biden administration and at least one of the president’s family members.
Any impeachment, of course, would be ill-fated in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Accordingly, many Senate Republicans are not even entertaining the idea. “Someone has to commit a high crime or misdemeanor for that to be a valid inquiry,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). “I haven’t seen any accusation of that nature whatsoever. There are a lot of things I disagree with … but that doesn’t rise to impeachment.”
When asked by Politico about the possibility of impeaching President Biden, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said that Republicans should outline certain investigative targets and “see if we can’t pressure the Democrats into working with us on a few things.”
Remove Some Democrats From Committee Assignments
McCarthy vowed late November to remove Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from House committees under his leadership.
The move is in part a response to Greene and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) being removed from their committee assignments last year following incendiary social media posts — including Greene musing about the assassination of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and pushing dangerous, baseless conspiracy theories.
“If this is the new standard, I look forward to continuing out the standard,” McCarthy said in a floor speech last year. This is, apparently, him keeping his promise.
“One thing I said from the very beginning, Eric Swalwell cannot get a security clearance in the public sector,” McCarthy said on Fox News. “Why would we ever give him a security clearance and the secrets to America? So, I will not allow him to be on Intel.”
“You have Adam Schiff, who lied to the American public time and again – we will not allow him to be on the Intel Committee either,” he continued. “Look at Congresswoman Omar, her antisemitic comments that have gone forward. We’re not going to allow her to be on Foreign Affairs.”
Roll Back IRS Funding
McCarthy announced in September that the first order of business for House Republicans in the new year is to “repeal 87,000 IRS agents” — a reference to an $80 billion funding boost to the IRS included in the Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law earlier this year.
The 87,000 number is misleading, as TPM’s Kate Riga reported earlier this year: It stems from an old Treasury Department report, pre-dating the Inflation Reduction Act, that estimated the number of full-time employees the agency would be able to hire by 2031 with $80 billion in additional funding. Those employees hired with the IRA’s funding boost will not all be working in enforcement, and many of them will be replacing people expected to quit or retire in the meantime.
But the chances of any IRA-slashing bill passed by the House also passing the Democratic-controlled Senate is low, and the chances of Biden signing off a bill that targets his climate-and-tax legislation — a major win for his White House — is even lower.
Lean Way In To The Culture Wars
McCarthy promised to support and advance several bills built on popular right-wing hobby horses. A big one is the “Parents Bill of Rights” — legislation aimed at prohibiting states from denying certain rights to parents concerning their child’s education.
The bill — which was crafted in the midst of the “critical race theory” fearmongering and frustrations around COVID-19–related school closures — would require school districts to post curricula, revenue and expenditures publicly and have teachers offer two in-person meetings with parents per year, among other things.
McCarthy has also said he would support Freedom Caucus member Rep. Greg Steube’s (R-FL) anti-transgender Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act — a bill to define sex “solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth” for purposes of athletics participation.
Just like the bill focused at rolling back IRS funding, culture war related bills are also unlikely to pass through the Democratic led senate.
End Proxy Voting
McCarthy vowed to end proxy voting — a pandemic era practice that allowed House members to designate a fellow member to vote proxy for them. The California Republican publicly pushed back on it in October saying it “allows Members of Congress to get paid without ever needing to show up for work.”
This is largely a carrot for the right-wing, conservative members who have been the loudest in pushing back on pandemic mitigation measures.
McCarthy even filed a lawsuit in 2021 challenging proxy voting and took it up to the Supreme Court. But the justices declined to hear the case.