I spoke to Grace Segers of The New Republic for her piece on Speaker McCarthy’s surprising success in uniting House Republicans and negotiating a debt limit deal with President Biden.
“McCarthy has exceeded whatever conceivable expectations people might have had,” said Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist. “There’s no question that he has enhanced his credibility. He has proved his mettle to the president, to congressional Democrats, and to the people in his conference who matter at the end of the day.”
Still, although some Republicans have floated triggering a no-confidence vote on McCarthy, which would require only one member filing a “motion to vacate” the speaker’s chair, such a move would be unlikely to garner majority support in the Republican conference. Representative Dan Bishop, among McCarthy’s loudest critics, has said that it is “inescapable,” but, he added, it depends on whether members “have the courage.” That more Democrats voted for the bill than Republicans may spur McCarthy’s right-wing critics to action.
But Donovan, the Republican strategist, argued that the vote’s partisan breakdown doesn’t change anything. “It just means [Democrats] will refuse to give him any credit and [the Freedom Caucus] will have more grist for the outrage mill,” he told me after the vote on the deal.
McCarthy has long prized his ability to build and maintain relationships with his members, making those connections the locus of his power. The 15 rounds of speaker votes, and the various concessions he made to obtain the gavel, may have strengthened his sway with conservatives rather than weakened it. Perhaps McCarthy did not sell the farm so much as hire it out to contractors.
“To put together a coalition that could function in this environment, McCarthy really had no choice but to deal these guys in, to give them power, and with that power came responsibility and skin in the game,” Donovan said. For example, McCarthy ensured that the powerful Rules Committee included three conservatives, including Representative Thomas Massie, who has often been a thorn in the side of Republican leaders. But Massie was a McCarthy ally in the debt ceiling fight: He voted to advance the legislation in the Rules Committee, ensuring it made it to the House floor, and supported the final product.
Read the full piece here.