House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appears to be having a fight with himself as he’s unable to make up his mind in regards to Donald Trump’s role in the deadly storming of the Capitol after the former President told his followers to march to the building and “fight like hell” to overturn the election results.
In the aftermath of the deadly Capitol riots, McCarthy angered Trump by saying he bears some responsibility for the attack. The House GOP leader even floated censuring the former president.
But McCarthy is now changing his tune, saying that Trump didn’t “provoke” the violence and that “Trump continues to have that ability to lead this party and unite” while insisting that he “hasn’t changed his position.”
“I have not changed in that [position],” McCarthy said on Gray Television’s “Full Court Press With Greta Van Susteren,” according to Politico. “I thought the president had some responsibility when it came to the response. If you listen to what the president said at the rally, he said, ‘demonstrate peacefully.’”
McCarthy’s public and private efforts to smooth things over with Trump shows just how much he still needs the MAGA wing of the party on his side in order to cement his future leading the GOP.
However, as noted by Politico, “the next two years could prove tricky for McCarthy as he tries to win back the majority and prevent his bitterly divided party from erupting into an all-out civil war. And the crisis over the Capitol attack, along with a conservative-led push to oust Cheney from leadership that will likely come to a head next week, will serve as a major test of McCarthy’s leadership in the post-Trump GOP.”
“The fight over Cheney — which has already become a proxy battle for the future of the GOP — could put McCarthy in a bind.”
Allowing Cheney to be ousted from her job as GOP conference chair, the No. 3 leadership position, would likely be disastrous for a party that just elected a record-breaking number of women to Congress, including in swing-districts that will be crucial to protect in 2022. And all the GOP leaders would rather be rallying around their opposition to the Biden administration.
Yet there’s also little political upside right now for McCarthy to vigorously defend Cheney, who has become public enemy No 1. in Trumpworld.
“The odds are still in [Cheney’s] favor because members — mostly — don’t want leadership fights,” said another GOP lawmaker. “Watch McCarthy and [GOP Whip Steve Scalise] on this one — it’s on them to stop it, or they’re complicit in ousting her.”
McCarthy, however, has done little publicly or privately to quash the brewing rebellion over Cheney, according to multiple sources, despite saying he wants her to remain in her post. In fact, McCarthy publicly sided with Cheney’s critics, who are not only upset with her impeachment vote but also incensed that she announced it a day ahead of time, which gave Democrats ample time to incorporate her statement into talking points.
But in an attempt to maintain some unity in the GOP ranks, McCarthy will provide members a forum for their voices to be heard, saying they can vent their frustrations during their in-person conference meeting next week. McCarthy has also implored Republicans to avoid attacking each other in the press — advice which some GOP lawmakers ignored.
“My only conversation with Kevin McCarthy, was after a TV hit, he asked me not to name members by name because we’ve all seen a substantial increase of death threats,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Trump loyalist who will be campaigning against Cheney in Wyoming this week. “I’ve subsided referencing people by name for a day or two. As Liz became more problematic with her divergence with the conference, it became untenable not to identify her as against the America First Vision.”