Why McCarthy would be wise to keep his current jobPolitically Aware Thursday, October 1st, 2015
Commentary: Politically Aware
In the wake of House Speaker John Boehner’s announcement of his retirement at the end of the month, political insiders think that his second in command, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, has the inside track to take the gavel. That may be true, but McCarthy would be wiser to keep his current job and elect a speaker from the far right of the party.
Boehner made it clear that he is retiring, at least in part, because of conflicts with the conservative members of his caucus. In January, 25 of his Republican colleagues voted against his election as speaker. One member filed a motion that he “vacate the chair” earlier this year. Their reason? Boehner isn’t conservative enough.
Never mind that he blocked moderate legislation that passed the Senate, like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and Immigration Reform. Forget that he enacted the budget slashing “sequester” and preserved many of the Bush tax cuts. Leading the party to its largest House majority in decades? Doesn’t matter. Boehner didn’t repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood or refuse to raise the debt ceiling, so the most conservative members of his party wanted him out.
The problem is that no Republican could do those things, which is why Boehner called those conservatives “false prophets” who “whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things they know … are never going to happen.” As long as there remains a Senate filibuster for legislation, 41 united Democrats can block any such action. If they choose to let it pass, a Democratic president would still veto the measure.
Boehner has already admitted that he will likely need Democratic votes to fund the government this year. The only other option would be to shut down the government until the president gives in, which he won’t, because presidents tend to win shutdowns as Americans rally around their leader. The 2013 shutdown didn’t hurt Republicans at the ballot box in 2014, but things could be very different in a presidential election year.
Should he become speaker, Rep. McCarthy will face the same facts. He may have a more effective leadership style or better relationships, but he won’t be able to get conservatives what they want as long as there are 41 Democrats in the Senate or one in the White House. The moment McCarthy has to compromise to get something passed, Boehner’s enemies will start calling for his head.
Which is why McCarthy should keep his current job, play the good soldier, and offer to show a more conservative speaker the ropes. Eventually the hard right will be forced to face reality by one of their own or voted out after endless government shutdowns. Either way, McCarthy will then be well placed to start a more productive and less stressful term as speaker.
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