Rep. Kevin McCarthy Wins Majority Leader Election, So Here's Your New Eric Cantor, America
America, you have a new Eric Cantor. California Rep. Kevin McCarthy was elected House majority leader on Wednesday, which basically means he's John Boehner's new right-hand man. McCarthy, who was endorsed by outgoing leader Cantor in a news conference last week, has a reputation for being a good friend of Boehner's and a pretty standard-issue Republican, according to The New York Times. Read: McCarthy, who was widely expected to win the election, isn't one of those Tea Partying types.
That matters because Cantor, who was actually extremely conservative politically, was (very dramatically) overthrown by a challenger professing even more Tea Party street cred and questioning Cantor's commitment to Tea Party evangelists. Some commentators interpreted the lost race as a warning to other lawmakers: Respect the far right-wing of the Republican Party, or face the consequences. While one weird race may just be one weird race, sometimes in politics the conventional wisdom about why something happened is just as — or even more — important than why it actually happened.
Which means Tea Partiers may have won more power in Congress thanks to Cantor's failure, even though the majority leader's defeat actually had little to do with the movement's prevalence in most of America.
McCarthy was challenged in the race by just one opponent: Raúl Labrador, an Idaho politician backed by the Tea Party. Republicans also voted in a new majority whip, McCarthy's old position, on Thursday. The whip basically helps drum up support for votes, and no surprise that the party was divided over that, too. Steve Scalise of Louisiana ended up with the win in the first round of voting. Scalise joined the House in 2008, meaning he's just ascended to the top ranks of the chamber pretty quickly.
One Republican, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, told Politico that Boehner, McCarthy and another top Republican, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, were from a "liberal half" of the crew. Because there is definitely a liberal half of the notoriously conservative Republican conference in the 113th Congress.
Regardless, far right-wing McCarthy is not. The guy's from California, for starters. In fact, he'll be the first Californian to hold the post of majority leader, The Los Angeles Times reported after the vote.
Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, another Boehner man, told the LA Times in no uncertain terms that McCarthy's win was a win for the Speaker of the House.
This is a job he knows well, and he'll decide what direction he wants to move. I think members are very much at ease that he will discharge his duties competently and he will be loyal to the speaker.