“We talk a lot about McCarthy there,” Comer said, before adding about McConnell: “He speaks highly of McCarthy.”
With control of both houses at stake in next year’s midterm elections, the two top Republican leaders have taken increasingly divergent positions on the major issues dominating Congress, reflecting both the different institutions they run and run. also how they see the position of the Republican Party leading to enormous consequence. election season.
“Governing in the majority is much more difficult,” said Senator Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota and a former member of the House. “What I’ve observed about factions: They can be very effective in the minority, but they make government very difficult.”
In recent months, their differences have become apparent, even as they have stood together against Biden’s proposed expansion of the roughly $ 2 trillion social safety net.
When asked about the fact that it was McConnell who closed that deal, McCarthy fired at Democrats.
“The Democrats had a lot of time to do it,” McCarthy told CNN. “Why did you wait until the last minute to do it?”
But behind the scenes, McConnell tried to bring McCarthy into the fold. While venturing across the Capitol last week, McConnell walked into McCarthy’s office for a meeting that lasted about 30 minutes. At the meeting, McConnell floated an idea to resolve the debt ceiling showdown by linking the issue to an annual defense policy bill, according to a source briefed on the meeting.
McCarthy informed McConnell that the proposal would not make it to the House and warned him that Republicans would “abandon” defense legislation, according to a Republican lawmaker who later learned of the conversation. That idea was finally scrapped.
McConnell walked out of the meeting and continued negotiating with Schumer. And ultimately, McConnell struck a deal, backed by Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to turn the fast-paced debt ceiling process into a more popular move to avoid deep cuts to Medicare.
The members of the house were angry.
Representative Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican who is running for Senate with Trump’s backing, called McConnell a “big spender” and said he would “prefer someone more conservative” as leader.
“But he is who he is,” Brooks added. “Disagreements are expected from time to time.”
Rep. Billy Long, a Missouri Republican seeking Trump’s endorsement in his Senate run, complained that the McConnell deal amounted to “dysfunction.”
“Today we found another way to be more dysfunctional,” Long said.
But when asked twice if he would endorse McConnell as a leader if he becomes a senator, Long fell silent, appeared to shake his head and got into an elevator.
Many Republicans in the Senate defended McConnell, saying the rules mean it takes 60 votes to overcome an obstruction attempt, so it would take 10 Republican votes to help prevent a default. And they said the deal that was struck will ultimately hurt Democrats, as they will be forced to specify a dollar amount to which they would raise the debt limit, likely beyond $ 30 trillion, and approve that increase with just their votes.
“If they regain the majority and we do, the Republicans will be on this issue, and it will be up to the Republicans to deliver the votes,” Senate Minority Leader John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, said of Republicans from the House of Representatives and the debt limit. “So be careful what you wish for sometimes.”
Differences over Trump
However, the disagreements have gone beyond the more recent political squabbles. Responding earlier this year to inflammatory comments from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Republican from Georgia, McConnell said her views amounted to “crazy lies and conspiracy theories” and were “cancer.” for the Republican Party. But earlier this fall, McCarthy said he would reinstate Greene on his potentially even “better” committees if Republicans take over the House after Democrats ousted her from her assignments following her controversial comments.
And just weeks before McCarthy and his conference ousted Representative Liz Cheney from his leadership team, McConnell told CNN that the Wyoming Republican was a leader of “high convictions.”
The divide largely has to do with Trump.
While McConnell and McCarthy voted against the Democratic-led impeachment effort accusing Trump of inciting the January 6 uprising, McConnell has maintained his criticism that the former president was “practically and morally responsible” for the attack. McCarthy, however, backed off on his criticism of Trump and found himself posing with the former president after an excursion to Mar-a-Lago less than a month after the attack on the Capitol.
And while McConnell now assiduously avoids talking about Trump, and even said “nice try” when asked at a recent Wall Street Journal event whether they had spoken since January 6, McCarthy has no problem talking about his relationship with him. former president.
“He called, he was on the golf course,” McCarthy recently told reporters, when asked about the last time he spoke to Trump. “Catching up. It wasn’t even a campaign [related] any.”
‘We better stick together’
A House Republican familiar with the McCarthy-McConnell dynamic said the pair communicate well, even if they don’t always move in unison or sometimes have different leadership styles.
“They are not surprised,” said the Republican lawmaker.
The two leaders meet regularly every time Congress is in session, another Republican source said.
Still, other House Republicans have begun to raise the alarm that Republican leaders are not always publicly on the same page, directing much of their ire at McConnell.
“We better stick together,” said Rep. Brian Babin, a Republican from Texas. “It is imperative that all Republicans march in one direction … This is training for, hopefully, the next session.”
But if Republicans manage to win back the Senate next year, Republican senators say much of the credit will go to McConnell, as he navigated rough waters.
“If we finish in the majority, it’s hard not to give Mitch McConnell credit,” Cramer said. “Even if you have to take a bite out of a shitty sandwich every once in a while, if it’s designed in a way that results in the majority, I think we have to acknowledge its role in that.”
But if the Democrats keep the Senate, will McConnell keep the leadership job?
“That would obviously make it more difficult,” Cramer said.
This story has been updated with additional developments on Thursday.