McConnell-McCarthy divide grows as Trump aims to keep his grip on GOP

“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.

With a 50-seat minority in a chamber where 60 votes are needed to get anything done, the longest-serving Senate leader of the Republican Party has been forced to cut deals with Democrats and President Joe Biden, deals that have been ran into major opposition from McCarthy and House Republicans. McConnell, more than 20 years older than McCarthy, believes they can rule while the Republican Party fights tooth and nail to derail much of Biden’s agenda.
But in the House, where the majority rarely need minority party votes, McCarthy, 56, has positioned Republicans as staunchly opposed to virtually anything Biden endorsed, even if it means voting against the legislation. to defend against non-compliance. the government manages or invests money in roads, bridges and broadband.
Above all looms large for former President Donald Trump, who has lashed out at McConnell for months, but whose support McCarthy considers essential to win back the House and to his own chances of becoming the next speaker. And how the two men will work with a Biden White House in an all-Republican Congress if the Republicans sweep the midterm has many on the hill scratching their heads.

“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.”

Legislative disagreements

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.

McConnell was one of 19 Senate Republicans who backed the broad infrastructure legislation, which McCarthy aggressively lobbied his members to reject. To avoid a government shutdown, McConnell backed a deal to keep government open until mid-February, something McCarthy and all but one House Republicans voted against over concerns about Biden’s vaccine mandates.
And with the prospect of a dire debt default next week, McConnell worked behind the scenes with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to create an expedited process that will allow the national debt ceiling to be increased on votes alone. Democrats. McCarthy strongly opposed the bill to create that new temporary process.
House Passes New Debt Limit Plan After McConnell Slashed Deal With Democrats

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.”

McConnell's almost comical attempt not to talk about Donald Trump

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.

Kevin McCarthy has a great challenge

“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.


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