Beware! Here there be tygers Stephen King
Let me start by stating that I am by no means ready to concede that Kreepy Kevin McCarthy will be the next Speaker of the House. Remember this, when former House Speaker John Boehner was elected Speaker, he had a 22 seat majority in the House. He was confirmed by 3 votes. When the Democrats flipped the House in 2018, then incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi had an even larger majority, but still had to broker a power sharing deal with younger progressives that limited her to two terms as Speaker. Political parties are not a monolithic entity.
The smaller the margin, the harder it is to cobble up the 218 votes necessary to get the gavel. And when you have a projected majority of 3-5 votes, there is no weaker Speaker candidate than Kreepy Kevin McCarthy. As I’m fond of saying, McCarthy is so slimy that slugs pour salt on him. And McCarthy’s job is made harder by the fact that he doesn’t just have a split caucus, conservative and more moderate, he has the trifecta, Trombies, Tea Party loonies, and traditional moderates.
And guess what? All three factions hate him! McCarthy came to congress in 2010 as a part of the Tea Party wave, and the Teabaggers consider him an ideological traitor for having sold out to Trump. The Trombies see him as a weak kneed toady, and they are out to wring every last concession they can out of him for power in return for their votes. And the GOP moderates see him as a craven, power hungry coward, who is completely untrustworthy.
And it’s this third group, the moderate Republicans, who are the group that can be the biggest thorn in McCarthy’s side. There aren’t that many of them, most likely about 20-25. But if you look at the eventual split of the House at 220-215 for the GOP, them McCarthy can only lose two votes and still win the Speakership. But although they might be the smallest group in the GOP caucus, they also actually have the most power, because of the incredible damage they can do to McCarthy and the other 2 factions.
Let’s break this down. The other 2 factions, the Trumpistas and the Teahadists are propelled purely by personal greed and political power. They each want carte blanche to pursue their own political and personal agendas. And that’s all they’re interested in, their personal facetime on television, and their fundraising prowess. And because they’re sharks, McCarthy will have to give them el rancho to bring them on board for his confirmation.
But the moderate conservatives in the caucus are a different breed of cat. They were either elected, or reelected, in frontline, competitive swing districts. And their constituents either elected or reelected them in order to go to Washington and get shit done! They like what Biden has done, and want their GOP representative to keep shoveling in the goodies. Which gives these lonely 20-25 GOP moderates the ultimate trump card.
There is a kink in the House rules involving the Speakership. In order to become the Speaker of the House, the nominee doesn’t have to be an active member of the House, he or she just has to get 218 votes. And McCarthy doesn’t have them, he came out of the closed door vote with only 188. He needs 30 more. Which makes the moderate GOP caucus the kingmakers. And while Kreepy Kevin may be able to negotiate with the Trumplets and the Teabaggers, he is piss poor qualified to deal with a delegation that is about results. Because McCarthy is solely driven by power.
There are two different ways this can play out in the short term. When McCarthy comes sniveling to them for their votes, they can remind him they’re not interested in power or prestige, they’re interested in results, and not in power or ideology. They can demand that even if a Democratic proposed bill stalls in committee, if it has 50-60% support in the conservative caucus. McCarthy will have to bring the bill to the floor for debate and a vote. This gives the sane GOP conservative caucus a chance to bring legislationforward to the floor to pass with widespread Democratic support.
The second option deals with the kink in the House rules. If McCarthy tries to strongarm and force the moderate Republicans into compliance, the Democrats can step in and piss in the punchbowl. The Democrats have 6 weeks to make an inroad. They can either choose an incumbent moderate HOP House member who will promise to bring good legislation to the floor, no matter who originated it, or they can find a mutually agreed consensus former moderate GOP Representative that the moderate GOP could call to the floor for a vote, and the Democrats can unify behind.
Are you noticing the common thread here? Either McCarthy can make concessions to the House moderate caucus to bring popular legislation to the floor for a vote, or the Democrats can join with the GOP moderate GOP caucus to put forward a sane Speaker candidate that will move good legislation. Either way the result is the same. McCarthy can’t win without the moderate conservatives, but the moderate conservatives can join with the
Democrats to elect a moderate GOP Speaker who will move good legislation forward. Either way, the Peoples business can move forward. Don’t touch that dial.