Republican Party

Kevin McCarthy: Meet the 'Goofy,' 'Affable,' and Possibly Machiavellian New House Majority Leader


On Thursday, House Republicans elected Kevin McCarthy to replace Eric Cantor as majority leader. Cantor announced last week that he was relinquishing the job, after being defeated by political newscomer Dave Brat in Virginia's recent primary election. Few expect the ascendance of McCarthy, now House majority whip, to change much about how the Republicans run the House.

McCarthy comes from California, where he represents the 23rd district. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2006, and became majority whip after the 2010 midterm elections. From 2002-2006, McCarthy served in the California State Assembly.

For what it's worth, CNN claims he's "considered by colleagues to be an affable guy who often invites members to his office to discuss their woes and share takeout food." McCarthy's recent Facebook timeline is filled with good cheer and patriotism: congratulations to West Point graduates, birthday wishes for George H.W. Bush, Bible verses, salutes to Flag Day, praise for public school teachers and high-school principals. 

But libertarians probably won't find much to like in McCarthy's promotion. "McCarthy has been in lock-step with Cantor, who endorsed him yesterday, and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)," writes Jason Pye at United Liberty. He is the picture of status quo.  

"It would [be] a politically tone deaf move for House Republicans to choose a carbon copy of Cantor to lead their conference," wrote Pye, who compiled a list of some of McCarthy's least liberty-friendly votes. These include repeatedly voting in favor of the USA PATRIOT Act; voting against the amendment from Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) to end bulk metadata collection by the National Security Agency; and voting twice in this current Congress for a clean debt ceiling increase without spending cuts. 

McCarthy did help uncover backlogs and corruption in the Department of Veterans Affairs and introduce legislation to combat this. He's also a big proponent of charter schools and a big critic of Obamacare and more carbon regulations. (He's also expressed at least nominal support for Republicans "embrac(ing) a little bit of our libertarianism.")

But most of the legislation McCarthy has sponsored or co-sponsored during his House tenure are relatively unremarkable or esoteric—a resolution to redesignate California's Dryden Flight Research Center the "Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center"; a bill to amend commercial space launch licensing requirements. 

As the least-tenured house majority leader ever, "McCarthy's short time in the House is perhaps one explanation for his notably thin legislative resume," The Huffington Post notes. "Of the three bills he sponsored that passed in the House, only two became law. One renamed a post office, the other a flight research center in California."

Though we're going to be hearing a lot from and about this guy, we hardly know who he is, writes Mike Pearl at Vice. "Unlike Cantor it's not because he's a cardboard cutout, but because his short political career has been an almost Obama-like rocket-ship ride."

As a resident of California who's been following McCarthy, however,, Pearl assures us that he's "everything you could realistically hope for in a mostly lock-step Republican: He's affable, occasionally inept, and refreshingly goofy."

A 2010 profile in The New Republic paints quite a different picture, however. Describing McCarthy as being "as far from a bomb-throwing, anti-establishment, Tea Party-esque ideologue as you can get," the piece pointed out how this could be bad news for Democrats who expect "the coming Republican Congress (to) swiftly collapse under the weight of its own ideological zealotry and general looniness." With McCarthy at the helm of the House, "the man most intimately overseeing the circus will be a Republican Machiavelli: as calculating, shrewd, and unapologetically political as they come," it said. 

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  1. More of the same bullshit. Who’d have thunk it?

  2. Exactly how does any of this make McCarthy Machiavellian?

  3. “It would [be] a politically tone deaf move for House Republicans to choose a carbon copy of Cantor to lead their conference,”

    Which means it’s the obvious move, really. If it’s one thing the Republicans have been great at since W it’s shooting themselves in the foot.

  4. He’s also expressed at least nominal support for Republicans “embrac(ing) a little bit of our libertarianism.”

    While that’s better than being openly hostile to libertarianism, there’s talking the talk and then there’s walking the walk.

    1. My thought too – if this guy is as “affable” and politically manipulative as the article suggests, it stands to reason (and probably likelihood) that he would, being aware of a faction in the party that is something called “libertarian”, and having heard some constituents use the term, he would make some tentative, qualified, not-sticking-my-neck-out lip service statement regarding libertarianism so to be sure not to alientate them – might pull in some votes/backing, and in case that kind of thing gets popular and he needs to “get behind it”. And if libertarianism never comes up again for him, no harm done.

      Actions tell you what you can expect from someone. In the case of a senator/rep, voting history is the main marker. And it’s not good for this guy.

  5. But if the next president has to confront a radical Islamist terrorist threat newly strengthened from operating bases in Iraq, in Syria, and in an Iran on the verge of nuclear weapons, he will have some genuine justification for blaming Mr. Obama, whose retreat will be remembered in the Middle East and beyond for years to come.

    It’s a US president’s job to wage wars that will be warmly welcomed by media outlets? That whole region would be more stable if the US weren’t intermittently bombing, invading and fueling the fires of local conflict. It was no peace mongering that kept Obama from doing more of the same, it was the practical reality of an opposition that had more political capital than this president. The Middle-East is the Middle-East because of the people who live there.

    1. fucking squirrels. I swear to Jeebus I posted this on the right article and after the refresh it was on a different page.

  6. […]this could be bad news for Democrats who expect “the coming Republican Congress (to) swiftly collapse under the weight of its own ideological zealotry and general looniness.”

    That’s funny. Democrats are counting on Republicans to be overly adherent to principles.

    I even wrote it down in my diary; “The Democrats made a very funny joke today.” I’ll laugh about it later tonight.

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