Kevin McCarthy elected minority leader for next Congress
Published 2:59 PM EST Nov 14, 2018
WASHINGTON – Kevin McCarthy defeated Jim Jordan, a co-founder of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, to become House minority leader Wednesday.
McCarthy, from California, beat Jordan, who is from Ohio, 159-43, according to McCarthy's spokeswoman Erin Perrine.
Jordan, who helped found the Freedom Caucus – a group of more than 30 conservatives known for bucking their party’s leadership – was not expected to win.
Politico reported Wednesday that President Donald Trump had urged McCarthy to give Jordan the top GOP slot on the powerful House Judiciary Committee. McCarthy's team did not immediately respond to a request for comment about that issue.
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise was elected minority whip; he has held the position in the majority.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney will be Republican conference chair. Her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, stopped by the meeting Wednesday.
North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker, head of the Republican Study Committee, will be vice chair.
Newly elected House members, in town for orientation, participated in the leadership vote.
In a letter to his colleagues the day before the election, McCarthy said that the successes of the previous Congress "will now be under attack with a (Nancy) Pelosi-led House," and he was the person to protect it.
"We need to lay the groundwork to regain the majority so that we can continue working alongside President Trump to fulfill our promise to fundamentally change Washington," McCarthy said. "I helped build a majority from a deeper hole than this, and I have what it takes to do it again."
The victory Wednesday was not a surprise to McCarthy. He told Politico last week that he expected to win.
“I had the votes the first day,” he said. Retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had endorsed his deputy, and McCarthy is close to President Trump.
Democrats flipped more than 35 seats last week, taking back control of the House and forcing Republicans into the minority. The Democratic leadership election will take place later this month. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to be elected speaker, but she faces opposition from a bloc of newcomers and a handful of incumbents.
McCarthy, a California Republican, has been in Congress since 2006. He moved up quickly within the party, most recently holding the majority leader position. In 2015, it appeared he would take over for retiring speaker John Boehner of Ohio. At the last minute, he was forced to pull his bid after it became clear he would not get the 218 votes required to be speaker. Ryan eventually took the job.
The incoming GOP conference will be smaller and more conservative. With a handful of exceptions, Republicans knocked out in the midterms were from the party’s moderate and establishment wings. And some safe GOP seats left open by members who retired or left office were filled by more conservative members.
Senators of both parties also had their leadership elections Wednesday morning, but there were no major changes. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will remain the Senate majority leader and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will continue as the Democratic leader.
In a press conference Wednesday morning, McConnell vowed to work across the aisle with the Democrat-controlled House.
"We'll be looking for ways now that we have divided government again to make some progress for the country," McConnell said.
The Republicans' No. 2 position is term-limited so Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, will leave leadership. South Dakota Sen. John Thune will take his place. Other Republicans will move up, which left an opening for the No. 5 spot. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst got that job.
Ernst's post will mark the first time in nearly a decade that a GOP woman has had an elected seat at the leadership table. The last woman in the group was Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in 2010. After losing the Republican primary, she left the post. Although Murkowski went on to a win a write-in campaign for Senate, she did not return to leadership.
Democrats had no shake-ups.
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