News

Kevin McCarthy’s fast track

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, right, rushes past reporters Friday moments after House Speaker John Boehner's resignation announcement. (Photo: Lauren Victoria Burke)

California’s Kevin McCarthy is on track to become the next speaker of the House.

If it happens, the affable Republican will achieve one of the fastest ascents in House history — or California political history, for that matter.  He would be the second House speaker from California.  The other is San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

He struck me during those days as a nice guy, well-spoken but not especially effective in the Democratic-controlled state Assembly

Telegenic and movie-star handsome, McCarthy, from the Bakersfield-centered, deep-red 23rd Congressional District, has been majority leader under John Boehner since August 2014, when he was elected to replace the defeated Eric Cantor.  Before then, he served as the chief deputy whip from 2009 until 2011, when he became majority whip.

In Sacramento, McCarthy is remembered as a nice guy with great hair: At his roast when he left for Congress, hours were spent discussing his mane.

Mark Gladstone, a Sacramento Capitol reporter when McCarthy was in the Assembly, gave McCarthy a mixed review of his Sacramento years in a profile written for the Houston Chronicle, where he is now an assistant city editor:

“McCarthy at least in Sacramento was a deal-maker, especially on budget issues,” Gladstone wrote in 2014 when McCarthy became House Majority Leader. “He struck me during those days as a nice guy, well-spoken but not especially effective in the Democratic-controlled state Assembly and in a capital city dominated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.  McCarthy wasn’t particularly outstanding, but when he went to Washington he became a big deal.”

With a safe district, and in two previous jobs that gave him contacts with his House Republican colleagues, McCarthy is well situated, at least on paper, to succeed Boehner.

A big deal indeed.  McCarthy was first elected to the House only in 2006.  He is the fastest-rising, least experienced majority leader in the history of the House of Representatives. When he assumed the majority leadership position, he had served only seven years, six months and 29 days in the House.  That is the least experience of any floor leader in the House’s history.

His networking skills, well known in Sacramento and D.C., have played a pivotal role in his rise, as did his position on the staff of former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, long a Congressional power.

But there’s more going on here.

McCarthy is a “a Republican Machiavelli: as calculating, shrewd, and unapologetically political as they come,” the New Republic’s Michelle Cottle wrote when McCarthy was poised to become Majority Whip with the GOP’s takeover of the House. “He may not be a household name, even in Washington; but, after a mere two terms in Congress, Kevin McCarthy is on the brink of becoming one of the Beltway’s most influential players.”

“McCarthy, to his credit (and advantage), does not fit the popular conception of a Machiavelli. There is no ruthless gleam in his eye à la Tom DeLay, no unsavory smirk. Rather, the square-headed, broad-shouldered father of two has an eager, open face and a manner as sunny as his SoCal home,” she wrote.

McCarthy’s Central-Valley 23rd District is tailor-made for him.  He won his fifth term in 2014 with nearly 75 percent of the vote.  With a safe district, and in two previous jobs that gave him contacts with his House Republican colleagues, McCarthy is well situated, at least on paper, to succeed Boehner.

His swift ascent in Washington reflects his record in Sacramento.  He was elected to the Assembly in 2002, and served a mere four years.  But during that time, he became the Republicans’ minority leader.

Hours after Boehner announced his resignation, McCarthy’s staff sent out an invitation for a fundraiser —  the “McCarthy Victory Fund” — on Oct. 1 in a private home in the D. www.tourabe.com C. suburb of McLean.

In the House, McCarthy has been a loyal lieutenant to Boehner and reported himself as stunned when Boehner announced he was stepping down as speaker and resigning his House seat as well.  In announcing his resignations, Boehner said his preferred successor as speaker is McCarthy.

That might be a mixed blessing.  Boehner was facing a revolt from 40 or more House Republicans who thought he had been too soft on the Democrats, especially Barack Obama.  But most D.C. observers believe that barring the unexpected, McCarthy will win the speakership with little trouble, never mind his close association with the departing Boehner.  The real intra-party fight will be about who will take over McCarthy’s old jobs as majority leader and majority whip.

“Californian McCarthy will be glib and telegenic on the Sunday morning network news shows,” Gladstone observed. “He’s Reaganesque in the way he likes to distill complicated issues into simple little stories. But to the extent the country wants to reform immigration, improve the mental health system or unclog congested highways don’t look for McCarthy to have any ‘Nixon goes to China’ moments.”

McCarthy is wasting little time in consolidating his position as speaker-in-waiting.  Hours after Boehner announced his resignation, McCarthy’s staff sent out an invitation for a fundraiser —  the “McCarthy Victory Fund” — on Oct. 1 in a private home in the D. www.tourabe.com C. suburb of McLean.  Tickets start at $1,000 each.

The White House is not expecting a sea change under a Speaker McCarthy.

“It’s not as if there’s been a multitude of areas where the House Republican caucus has sought to cooperate previously,” President Obama said during a press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday. “So I don’t necessarily think that there’s going to be a big shift.”

 

 

 

 


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: