OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Kevin McCarthy had a rough start to his tenure after it took a historic 15 ballots before he finally managed to secure enough Republican votes to become Speaker of the House in January.
But since then, he appears to have delivered in terms of legislation and has won the grudging approval of the most conservative members of his party.
“So far, McCarthy has logged surprise successes in the new Congress: The Republican House has passed dozens of bills, many of them bipartisan, including politically potent efforts targeting crime and the COVID-19 pandemic that left President Joe Biden almost no choice but to sign the bills into law,” The Associated Press noted in an analysis published on Saturday.
“McCarthy has opened the Capitol more fully to visitors, relishing the onlookers who stop to snap selfies during his impromptu hallway news conferences. He hosted his first foreign leader, President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, with a diplomatic flourish, leading a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers standing up to China,” the analysis continued.
“On Monday, McCarthy will deliver a speech at the New York Stock Exchange, another sign of his rising influence,” the report continued.
As the new Congress reaches its 100-day milestone, McCarthy’s leadership as speaker of the House is akin to a spotlight on an empty stage, leaving the audience waiting for the play to begin, only to realize there is no script, the AP noted.
Though McCarthy holds the crucial position of speaker, putting him second in line to the presidency, his alignment with former President Donald Trump and tenuous hold on the gavel has limited his ability to act. With any member of Congress able to call for a vote to remove him from office, his position remains precarious.
Due to these constraints, McCarthy has been unsuccessful in leading House Republicans to make headway on their larger goals, such as delivering on promises related to border security or budget cuts to avoid a debt ceiling crisis, the analysis continued.
But nevertheless, McCarthy, a California Republican, appears to have successfully walked the fine line between rank-and-file Republican members and the more conservative faction of the party.
The AP noted:
He often suggests he’s being underestimated. House Republicans stunned Washington with some unexpected early victories when they took control in January for the first time in four years.
Republicans all but forced Biden into signing early bills into law, including one to roll back the District of Columbia’s criminal code. Democrats were furious when the White House abandoned efforts to veto the measure and played into the GOP’s tough-on-crime rhetoric.
On other measures, McCarthy found Democrats willing to cross party lines — to create a select committee focused on U.S. competition with China, to require the administration to declassify as much intelligence as possible about the origins of COVID-19 and to require an abrupt end to the national pandemic emergency.
“He’s performed better than I thought he would,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., a past chairman of the Freedom Caucus whose members held off supporting McCarthy for a week. “I can’t complain.”
“Now there’s actually a check and balance,” added Eric Cantor, a former GOP congressional leader. “He is delivering that every day and very effective, obviously, at holding his troops together.”
“Tough job,” added GOP Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, in remarks to the AP. “But he’s doing great.”
“We are proud of him,” Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., a Freedom Caucus member who was among the holdouts. He added that the struggle McCarthy faced to become second in line to the presidency may make him “the best speaker” in his lifetime.
“I mean, he’s proven he can fight. He’s proven that he’ll stick it out. Well, that should terrify the White House and terrify the Senate. The House is in control,” he said.
McCarthy released a viral video this week to set the record straight on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the case that led to former President Donald Trump‘s indictment and arraignment.
McCarthy retweeted a post by House Judiciary GOP mocking Bragg’s claim that New York is the “safest big city in America.” The video, which was posted in response to a tweet from Bragg, shows a stick-up in broad daylight in Manhattan, where a motorist, allegedly armed, smashes another car and takes something from the driver.
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) April 10, 2023