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American Republicans: What is the problem with opponents of McCarthy?


Status: 01/05/2023 3:31 PM

Kevin McCarthy still hopes to become Speaker of the US House of Representatives. But it is not clear how he can convince opponents in his ranks, says the American expert Thiem. Because he has already made concessions.

Tagesshaw 24: Twenty dissidents are often referred to as Whig Republicans. How differentiated should it be?

Johannes Thiem: It can already be seen that the twenty people who have now voted against McCarthy in the last six votes mostly come from the Freedom Caucus. This is a bloc of far-right House members, although that has changed somewhat over time. It started about ten years ago with an agenda of less state intervention in the economy and a liberal economic policy. In recent years, they have increasingly become Trump’s wing of the Republicans. They support the “America First” policy. Many of them questioned the past elections. There are right-wing extremists in Parliament.

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Johannes Thiem is Deputy Head of the Americas Research Group at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik in Berlin.

It is not clear what McCarthy stands for.

Tagesshaw 24: What kind of politics is McCarthy endorsing that would antagonize this conservative to the far-right wing of Republican congressmen?

Theme: This is exactly part of his problem. It is not entirely clear what kind of politics he represents. It is clear that he has long wanted to become Speaker of the House. He had the opportunity to do so in 2015, but had to make way for someone else at that time due to a lack of support. This may be his last chance now.

McCarthy is characterized by an unconditional will to power. That’s why he hasn’t quit yet. And otherwise? Politically, he has always been very flexible, which is especially evident from the fact that he once criticized Donald Trump, for example after the January 6, 2021 riots. When he realized that the Republican base was still loyal to Trump, he turned around again. But the fact that the Radical Republicans now voting against him describe him as too moderate is remarkable. Because he was also a Trumpist and can’t really be called a moderate.

“It is not easy to establish party discipline.”

Tagesshaw 24: The office of Speaker of the House of Representatives is the third-highest-ranking political office in the United States. What is the power of the Megaphone?

Theme: This is the combination of the Speaker of the House, that is, the person responsible for the internal order, and the group leader of the majority group of Republicans. The strength lies precisely in the fact that the speaker can set the agenda, that he can decide which legislative projects will be discussed in the plenum and which will be voted on at all. But a big part of the job, and it’s not easy, is to keep your party together and to establish something like collective discipline.

“It completely paralyzes the work of Parliament.”

Tagesshaw 24: What does this electoral blockade, this back and forth for the work of the House of Representatives mean?

Theme: The House of Representatives can only begin its actual work after electing a speaker. Until that happens, the members will not be formally sworn in. Before there is no speaker, there are no procedural rules. The fact that there is now an impasse completely paralyzes the work of the House of Representatives.

I’ve already made some concessions.

Tagesshaw 24: Now, former President Trump, who is still informally referred to as president by some opponents, has repeatedly spoken out in favor of McCarthy. If we look now at the midterm elections, many of the candidates backed by Trump fared poorly. So in the end, is the fact that Trump is calling for McCarthy’s election the actual KO of McCarthy?

Theme: No, I wouldn’t say it like that. But it also shows that Trump’s influence is waning. Trump always demands unconditional loyalty before supporting anyone. McCarthy was prepared for that loyalty because he believed at the time that it would enable him to become Speaker of the House. It is supported by Trump. He is also supported by Jim Jordan of Ohio, also a member of the Freedom Caucus who is also a radical like the others who are now voting against McCarthy and who was nominated as the alternate candidate the day before yesterday. But he supports McCarthy.

It is not entirely clear where exactly the deduction problem with McCarthy lies. Sure, some have personal issues with him, but it’s not entirely clear how to win this wing over. Because whatever concessions McCarthy might make in terms of content, he’s already done so.

“It doesn’t look good to him.”

Tagesshaw 24: How do you rate it? Will McCarthy see he doesn’t stand a chance?

Theme: I dare not predict how this will end. Things are looking increasingly bad for McCarthy. It is not clear how he will persuade opponents to vote for him after all. In this regard, he will have to retire sooner or later. This cannot go on indefinitely. I don’t know if he still has any trump cards left to lure people over to his side, if the faction as a whole can put pressure on opponents to turn them back. It’s very hard to tell at the moment. In any case, he wants to continue the negotiations, but things are not looking good for him at the moment.

Interview by Ralph Baudach, tagesschau24