Does Donald Trump really deserve credit for Kevin McCarthy’s win? – Throughout the bitter, day-long battle in Congress over Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s quest for the Speakership, one theme that emerged in the media was that it was very much a pro-Trump battle.
Both sides of the fight consisted of Trump loyalists, while the fight wasn’t really about Trump, or his legacy, especially after a more than seven-year period in which essentially all Republican political considerations revolved around that one man.
Throughout the fight, Trump made clear that he supported McCarthy for Speaker. But the anti-McCarthy faction, over several days, did not fall in line purely because Trump asked them to. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a longtime Trump uber-loyalist, had refused to vote for McCarthy, although he did vote for Trump himself on multiple ballots.
But then, at the very end of the process, it appeared Trump might have put his thumb on the scale after all.
In the 15th and final ballot for Speaker, several members of the “Never Kevin” faction, including Gaetz, voted “present,” which reduced the number of votes needed for a Speaker to be elected, and therefore led to McCarthy winning. On previous ballots, the anti-McCarthy representatives had voted for opposing candidates, which counted as votes against McCarthy.
And per The Hill, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), a member of the pro-McCarthy group, stated that she had spoken to Trump during the key moments of the vote, at one point even showing her phone, with a call from “DT,” to C-SPAN’s cameras.
Greene was showing the phone to the anti-McCarthy lawmaker Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), describing it on Twitter as a “perfect phone call,” in a reference to Trump’s defense in his first impeachment. Rosendale appeared to brush the call off, although he did go on to vote “present.” The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that Trump had also called Gaetz, and other McCarthy holdouts, at the time of the final vote.
“I don’t think anybody should doubt his influence. He was with me from the beginning,” McCarthy said of the former president, per The Hill. And Trump, naturally, bragged himself about what he had accomplished.
“The Fake News Media was, believe it or not, very gracious in their reporting that I greatly helped Kevin McCarthy attain the position of Speaker of the House. Thank you, I did our Country a big favor,” Trump said in a Truth Social post on Sunday.
Of course, in typical Donald Trump fashion, this put him in a position to claim McCarthy’s success as his own and make clear that he thinks the new Speaker owes him.
For Kevin McCarthy, the victory represents a long-awaited triumph. He had hoped to ascend to the Speakership after Speaker John Boehner retired in 2015, but was passed over by the Republican caucus in favor of Rep. Paul Ryan.
But even after his election, McCarthy still has plenty of challenges left. A rules package, which included numerous conceptions made to the party’s right flank during the negotiations, must be passed this week- and it appears some in the caucus are less than enthused.
According to The Guardian, “a handful of establishment Republicans
“My question really is today: what backroom deals did they try to cut, and did they get those?” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) said in a TV interview over the weekend. “We don’t know what they got, we haven’t seen it. We don’t have any idea what… gentleman’s handshakes were made. And it does give me a little bit of heartburn because that’s not what we ran on.”
Among the provisions was one that would allow just one lawmaker to file a “motion to vacate” the Speakership.
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Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.