McCarthy Makes Impossible Promises As He Scrambles To Shore Up Conservative Votes

WASHINGTON DC, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 14: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at a House GOP leadership press conference on government funding on December 14th, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Nath... WASHINGTON DC, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 14: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at a House GOP leadership press conference on government funding on December 14th, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been in campaign mode for weeks to secure the 218 votes he’ll need in the upcoming House elections to become speaker. That meant making a series of niche promises to the MAGA members who are opposing his bid. This week, he made yet another promise to woo his way into the speakership — one that could make life quite difficult for him in the long run.

McCarthy took to Twitter on Tuesday threatening to block the legislative priority of any senator who votes for the $1.66 trillion omnibus package that was released late Monday night. McCarthy has been publicly opposing signing an omnibus spending bill before Republicans take the House majority next year for days now.

Later that day, 21 Senate Republicans ignored McCarthy’s threat and voted to begin debate on the spending bill.

“He’s focused on being speaker, and if I were in his shoes that’s what I would be focused on, trying to get enough votes. But I don’t think that intimidates anyone,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the top GOP negotiator on the omnibus bill, told Axios.

If McCarthy sticks to his word, that would mean he would end up opposing a handful of bills that Senate Republicans are likely to advocate for over the next few years. PunchBowl offered some examples this morning, including possible immigration bills from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), sanctions bills from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and the enormous category of spending bills, shepherded by the soon-to-be top Appropriations Committee Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

Picking a fight with top Senate Republicans may seem counterproductive, but the Senate, including Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), seems to see it for what it is: a calculated move from McCarthy to impress the small but mighty group of MAGA-infused Freedom Caucus members opposing his speakership.

When asked on Tuesday if he supports McCarthy’s bid for speaker, McConnell said, “Absolutely. I’m pulling for Kevin. I hope he makes it,” according to PunchBowl.

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, and other members seem sympathetic to their cause. The “Never Kevin” Republicans even announced they plan to vote as a unit. This could tank McCarthy’s speakership ambitions by eating up the slim majority House Republicans have in the upcoming Congress. If McCarthy loses more than four Republican votes in the election scheduled for January 3, he’ll likely fall under the 218 votes he needs to become the new House leader.

The tight margin for victory has led McCarthy to contort himself with the counterintuitive promises and in other novel ways. Semafor reported, for example, that he may be forced to embrace Congressman-elect George Santos (R-NY) following the explosive New York Times revelations that Santos seemingly lied about almost every single aspect of his resume and credentials.

McCarthy has still not weighed in on the Santos allegations. Pressuring Santos to resign could mean a special election that could help Democrats gain another seat. That would not only mean an even more slim majority for Republicans in next year’s Congress, but one less vote for McCarthy’s speakership.

Santos, though ostensibly MAGA-aligned in other respects (the rep.-elect was in D.C. on Jan. 6) pointedly renewed his support for McCarthy’s speakership bid on Twitter just before the New York Times story came out.

Meanwhile, the tensions between the McCarthy loyalists and the conservative Freedom Caucus members opposing McCarthy’s speakership bid has shown no signs of easing.

Earlier this week, the divisions within the two groups seemed to deepen after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) got into a public spat. Boebert said she doesn’t agree with Greene’s support for McCarthy or, for that matter, Greene’s “Jewish space laser” theory. In return, Greene pushed back in a tweet accusing Boebert of “childishly” criticizing her “for a cheap sound bite.” She also noted former President Donald Trump and McCarthy both publicly supported Boebert and donated to her campaign.

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