Instead, McCarthy took the stage hours later than expected on Wednesday morning as Democrats held on to a small but not insignificant seat, halting GOP celebrations.
“When you wake up tomorrow, we will be in the majority and Nancy Pelosi will be in the minority,” McCarthy declared in a four-minute speech shortly after 2 a.m.
Nearly a full day later, that prediction has yet to materialize. The House majority remained unknown as of Wednesday night, as many races remained close in areas Republicans thought they could easily win.
To be sure, House Republicans are still largely on track to win the majority. But some are crazy about the seemingly small victory, as they stare at what many privately say is an impossible task to manage an ideologically fractious meeting by a narrow margin.
At the heart of this tightrope walk is McCarthy, who has methodically charted his path to a ruling majority as minority leader for the past four years. While his calculations may not increase his chances of becoming House speaker, the expected narrow victory complicates his path. Members of the conference far-right are considering how to use the narrow majority to their advantage, while more centrist members fear they will be held hostage to fringe ideas, leading to a failure of governance, and McCarthy’s demands for these concessions will only grow.
“We have to figure out how to come together and work for this party,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said Wednesday on Stephen K. Bannon’s “War Room.” “I’m going to do my best on how to do it because I have a clear vision for it. But it’s going to take a lot of hard work.”
A weaker majority could haunt Republicans, just as House Democrats have been toying with a five-seat majority in their last term, encouraging lawmakers to demand and delay legislation as they please.
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Allies say the goodwill McCarthy has cultivated among the ideological wing within the GOP conference will help cement all the 218 votes necessary to declare him speaker in January. But according to more than 20 Republican lawmakers, strategists and aides discussed private conversations on condition of anonymity.
“Kevin McCarthy worked very hard, he and [Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.)] Traveled all over the country and united the meeting on policy… [and] Recruited incredibly qualified candidates,” retired Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) said Wednesday. “Leader McCarthy has the vision and I think has the ability to unite this new conference in the majority advance in. “
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Polls in the final days before the election continue to show that Republicans are winning over voters who believe the economy remains their top concern. Republican lawmakers, aides and strategists, in turn, got a head start on winning, touting McCarthy’s political instincts and recruiting success as the key to “saving the tsunami” in the House.
But with the tsunami receding before it washed ashore, some Republicans questioned McCarthy’s strategy and wondered whether the outcome would force him to reset his priorities — and to recalibrate those he listened to.
A House Republican who won re-election on Tuesday sees the margin for victory as McCarthy’s task of finally suppressing election denialism and baseless claims embraced by far-right candidates and lawmakers in the House GOP conference.
“Last night was embarrassing,” the lawmaker said. “We have the worst president since Jimmy Carter, the highest inflation in 40 years, and we don’t know if we woke up this morning with a majority? It’s embarrassing and humiliating and says a lot about the meeting… There should have been a historic red tide, but it turned out to be a low tide.”
The lawmaker singled out the party’s support for Green, former President Donald Trump and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) is allied with the party’s far-right, a miscalculation. Some pointed to Bobert’s unexpectedly tight campaign as a sign that voters in certain parts of the country are condemning ideology in their safe seats, let alone tossing them in areas where they tend to reject extremes.
That view was echoed by several House Republican aides, who recognized that the expected thin majority could upend the ties conservatives forged for legislation and governance.While there are several pieces of legislation Republicans will be able to pass quickly — like repealing funding to the IRS in the Inflation Reduction Act, passing the Parental Bill of Rights And expand drilling to produce more energy in the U.S. — policymakers worry that narrow margins will keep Republicans from reaching a deal on bitterly contested positions on immigration, government funding and the removal of the debt ceiling.
It’s an outcome Republicans are trying to avoid after witnessing how the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus takes control of the Speakers of John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisconsin).
if there is not. McCarthy, who came in second behind Boehner and Ryan, accepted the Freedom Caucus after Rep. Founding member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) challenged him for minority leadership in 2018. Instead of putting the group aside, McCarthy developed a relationship with Jordan and brought the group to the decision table.
Doing so has largely stymied the Freedom Caucus over the years, though that hasn’t stopped them from making demands. As stated in a memo distributed by the group last month, the results of the midterm elections could encourage the caucus “to demand positive reforms to return the People’s Home to the American people and make it operational again.”
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To help him win the speakership, McCarthy promised to restore Greene and the Rep. to committee assignments. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), adding more members to the influential steering committee and placing members of the Liberty Caucus on their preferred legislative committee.
Still, members of the Freedom Caucus may be bolder in asking McCarthy to reinstate the “motion to free chair” rule, which allows any member to file a motion to remove the speaker at any time. It was the kiss of death that doomed Bona and Ryan.
Leadership aides have said in the past few months that the Freedom Caucus is unlikely to make such a request, especially as the group dwindles. But members of the Freedom Caucus predicted ahead of the election that if their ranks expand, they could have far more influence than they previously thought.
So far, few Or staunch MAGA allies win seats in the new majority, and it’s unclear how many pragmatic members McCarthy recruits to help build his governing majority will win.
“It’s going to be contentious,” said a Republican strategist working on the House race. “He’s going to have the same problems as Pelosi — there’s going to be a small group of extremists who come together and make him brutal.”
While the Freedom Caucus may have more appeal, many members and top Republican aides admit it can only go so far. No consensus leader has mobilized members in a similar way that Jordan destroyed Boehner and Ryan. Jordan continued to stick with McCarthy and publicly reiterated his support for his one-time foe as a speaker.
Moreover, McCarthy can argue that he is still the one to bring the majority back, visiting 39 states since August and raising $500 million through his affiliated campaign and recruiting PACs.
“If you’re the minority leader on election day and you win a majority, [you’re] Might be a speaker,” McCarthy said during a leadership retreat in March. “They’re not going to change coaches between the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Doesn’t mean they won’t put my feet on the fire. “
Keeping the meeting together will fall on McCarthy and the man elected to the majority whip, the man responsible for making sure members line up and vote the way the leadership instructs them.
Ahead of the midterm elections, GOP leadership aides cabled that most would not seek a bipartisan outcome as they aim to have President Biden and Senate Democrats facing re-election in 2024. National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman Tom Emer (R-Minn.) and officially announcing he will run for the Whip, told reporters he agreed with a lawmaker who told him the GOP majority would have to seek Bipartisan consensus passed the legislation.
Several aides acknowledged privately that they would have to seek Democratic support on key issues, while aides to the Democratic leadership said they would not give it lightly.
Some GOP strategists interviewed by The Washington Post on Wednesday were quick to throw Emer on the bus, criticizing him for spending too much time prepping his House whip campaign than he did in the overall GOP election. not enough.
“I’m surprised Rep. Emmer thinks his path to the Republican whip is with Democrats,” said David McIntosh, chairman of the Conservative Growth Club. “The fastest way for a Republican to get back into the minority is to work with the Democrats to pass Biden’s agenda. I don’t recall seeing an NRCC ad about working with the Democrats.”
Some of those strategists praised McCarthy’s hiring efforts ahead of Election Day and criticized Emer for not building a strong enough slate of candidates.
Others, however, pointed to Emmer as a victim of his own success, leading the NRCC to a successful 2020 midterm election despite Trump’s loss. Emmer himself made this point in a call with reporters, saying House Republicans had previously won “low-hanging fruit” in the last cycle.
But Emer defended what he called a good night for Republicans. “We have won seats for two consecutive cycles. We are taking back the majority,” he said on Wednesday. “Nobody said it was going to be easy. We played in Biden territory and we still managed to fire Nancy Pelosi for good.”
The leadership contest next week is expected to focus on these developments. While members are expected to vote behind closed doors for McCarthy, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) as Majority Leader and Rep. Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.) chairs the conference, and the whip competition will test the conference’s ideological makeup.
Trump’s orbit continues to favor the House of Representatives. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), while more moderate Republicans want to stick with the Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-La.), served as chief deputy whip.
It remains to be seen whether McCarthy can navigate the tensions between the Trump-friendly House Freedom Caucus and centrist Republicans, especially as Trump appears to be particularly important in the meeting. The former president is expected to announce his political future as soon as Tuesday, the same day as the House Republican leadership election.
Some members hoped the leaders would take steps to quell Trump’s indulgence in the meeting, arguing that it could cost them more.
“If he doesn’t put them in a corner, we’re going to have a bad time for most people, and who knows what 2024 will be like after that,” one Republican lawmaker said.
But others point to if Republicans can’t dump Trump after Jan. 1. Uprising 6 June 2021, they are unlikely to do so after poor mid-term results.
“It’s impossible to try to pry the party’s foundation out of Trump. It’s really, really, impossible,” said a senior Republican aide. “Even if he is weakened and leaders want to stay away from him, al-Qaeda and Trump will not allow that to happen.”
Tony Rom contributed to this report.