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Mick Mulvaney Details Why Kevin McCarthy Is Facing Such Intense Opposition in Speakership Bid

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) analyzed Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) failed bid to be elected House speaker today. It was in shambles as the California Republican’s old ghosts returned to haunt him. McCarthy has fumbled easy votes before, and today was no exception. We had three ballots which drove both sides to exhaustion. McCarthy didn’t have enough Republican votes, with 20 rebels refusing to back his bid. And Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who was elected to succeed Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as the leader for House Democrats, doesn’t have the numbers either; Republicans have a meager majority this session. 


Three stalemates led to a motion to adjourn until noon tomorrow being adopted, but while Jeffries' support remained ironclad, McCarthy’s grip on his support base was starting to falter. Who knows if the dam would break, but it was time to quit and regroup, though whether a recess would benefit McCarthy is unknown. 

Some people were wondering why Mulvaney was even on the Hill: he’s not a member of Congress, having served as Trump’s White House chief of staff, director of the Office of Management and Budget, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and finally a special envoy to Northern Ireland. Regardless, he was interviewed by CNN’s Jake Tapper and got to the core of the opposition to McCarthy from the 20 or so House Republicans. It’s personal; these rebels don’t like the man. Moreover, they have no plan. 

When he asked them who they would prefer, they told Mulvaney that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) was a suitable alternative, but the Ohio Republican a) didn’t want the job, and b) there was no realistic scenario in which he would get the votes. The vast majority of the House Freedom Caucus backed McCarthy on every ballot, so it’s not an actual conservative rebellion. The ex-White House chief of staff added that the 20 anti-McCarthyites are enjoying the media hits and chaos, but this is a sloppy way to run a speakership election.


It's an ironic twist since Mulvaney didn’t support John Boehner’s speakership bid, though he admits he had no personal animus towards the former speaker. This vote is different. If not McCarthy, then whom? That’s what he pitched to these members who remain firm in their opposition. Mulvaney added that a possible alternative is a bipartisan/coalition pick, where a more centrist Republican, who could appeal to enough Democrats, is selected and secures the votes for the speakership. That option would be less palatable to the conservative base than if McCarthy had given the gavel outright.

The South Carolina Republican also argued that his opposition to Boehner was over a marginalization of conservative voices within the GOP caucus. McCarthy is slated to have Rep. Jordan chair the House Judiciary Committee if he gets elected speaker, something Mulvaney admits would never be considered under Speaker Boehner. 


Fourth ballot voting begins tomorrow. I’d expect someone is talking to somebody throughout the night because in the words of Leo McGarry, “one night of this is entertaining, two nights we look like idiots.”

Then again, I believe that all is fair in chaos. Regarding those people who have a realistic shot at getting the gavel—McCarthy—I’m lukewarm, so if he gets it, he gets it. If not, then, oh, well.

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