Why on Earth did Paul Ryan pick Kevin McCarthy to lead the House Republicans after he leaves?
Stand by for the next civil war among Republicans. For reasons known only to himself, after announcing his plan to retire from the House and the speakership – but to continue holding on to the speaker's gavel until January 2019 (thus depriving his party of the opportunity to choose a new leader before the November election) – Paul Ryan on Sunday recommended Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California to be his successor.
House Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed Kevin McCarthy, saying he's the "right person" to lead the GOP.
Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 3 in the GOP team, agrees and won't challenge McCarthy for the gavel, Ryan said.
"We all think that Kevin is the right person," Ryan told NBC's "Meet the Press" in an interview that airs Sunday.
McCarthy and Ryan. Adapted from caricatures by Donkey Hotey via Flickr.
If Ryan's hope was to stage-manage a smooth transition of leadership, the plan was an immediate flop. Rachel Bade and John Bresnahan report in Politico:
Allies of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the current favorite for the job, are upset that Ryan insists on staying through the elections. They think the delay can only hurt McCarthy's chances and might mean a monthslong power struggle in the House Republican Conference in the thick of election season.
The relationship between McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) remains frosty. Scalise endorsed his more senior colleague on Friday after his hand was forced by Ryan, but the Louisiana lawmaker remains interested in the speakership if McCarthy can't round up the votes.
And then there's the House Freedom Caucus. The group on Friday sent the majority leader a blunt warning that he doesn't have the votes as one of the group's ringleaders, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), floated that he might run for speaker himself. Jordan couldn't win. But he could deny McCarthy votes from the Freedom Caucus that he can't become speaker without.
If you think this sounds like a story you've heard before, you are correct. When John Boehner left the speakership, guess who was supposed to inherit the gavel. John M. Ellis wrote on these pages in 2015:
When a leadership post is vacant, Republicans don't ask: who can advocate most persuasively for the party, who would be the best tactician and strategist, who could best forge a consensus among the party's disparate elements? They ask only: whose turn is next? And that condemns them to incompetent leaders.
Early reports suggest that the GOP is about to make the same mistake again: Kevin McCarthy is said to be the likely choice to replace John Boehner. It's the "his turn next" syndrome yet again, since if my three questions were asked, McCarthy is just about the last person that anyone would think of. ...
The inarticulate and passive leadership of Boehner has taken a huge toll on the morale of rank-and-file GOP members, but the party now has the chance to put all of that behind it. All that the House GOP has to do is ask: who among our members has in the highest degree those qualities needed for leadership? It's a simple question, and not one that has much use for seniority. Every single member of the House should be looked at before the question is answered, regardless of whether a given member decides to put him- or herself forward. And surely nobody can doubt that were that simple question the focus of the proceedings, the present majority leader would not be in consideration.
The effect on party membership nationwide of another lazy "it's his turn next" decision would be devastating. It would infuriate the vast majority who wants new leadership, not a continuation of the old. It would be seen as a repeat of what happened the last time the public registered its disapproval of House leadership, by forcing Eric Cantor out; then too the party establishment ignored the rebuke and promoted McCarthy. But worst of all, it would spell out to GOP voters that the party is incorrigible, that it can't learn from experience, and that it will go on making the same costly mistake until the end of time. That way lies more rallying behind Trump, and even the disaster of a third party.
The biggest challenge facing the House GOP caucus right is firing up the base, so as to match and exceed the Democrats' turnout in November. I don't know anyone who thinks McCarthy is the guy to do that (though I am sure such people exist). We are in the midst of a cold civil war, and the "People's House" needs a genuine conservative willing to fight back against the swamp, not a creature of the swamp.
Conservative HQ comments:
"We all think that Kevin is the right person," Ryan told NBC's "Meet the Press" in an interview that aired Sunday.
Our response to Ryan picking his successor is: What do you mean by "we" RINO-man?
Ryan, Scalise, Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry and the rest of the musical chairs boys in the House Republican "leadership" are hoping that their House colleagues and America's grassroots conservative voters have forgotten why Rep. McCarthy did not get the nod for Speaker the last time the job was open[.]
As for Ryan's motives, they remain a mystery. But we will have a big clue next January. Will he return to Janesville, Wisconsin and join his family, seeing his kids every day? Or will he join a lobbying outfit or maybe an investment bank and move his family to New York or Washington to make millions of dollars?