With House Speaker John Boehner’s surprise announcement that he’ll step down at the end of October, all eyes are now on his deputy, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California.
McCarthy, the U.S. House Majority leader who replaced Eric Cantor following his 2014 re-election bid loss, is being viewed as a natural, leading contender to replace Boehner. Here’s what you need to know about the man who may soon have one of the toughest jobs in Congress:
1. He’s had had a quick rise: In 2006, McCarthy (who previously served on the California State Assembly) won a congressional seat after being endorsed by retiring House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas. Since then, McCarthy, now 50, has quickly climbed the ranks—elected as chief deputy whip in 2009, House majority whip in 2011 and then House majority leader in 2014.
2. He’s shown he can work with the tea party: McCarthy, an establishment GOPer, was credited with helping pass the Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan in 2011, despite the wave of tea partiers who came into office in 2010. While the spending plan in its original form, which would have cut federal, non-security discretionary spending to levels not seen before the depression, was not approved, the fact that the budget passed was seen as a sign as GOP unity.
3. Still, he’s no shoo in: Conservative critics are concerned McCarthy, who hails from the deep blue state of California, may be more of the same. Red State’s Leon H. Wolf argued on Friday that McCarthy is “cut from exactly the same cloth” as Boehner and that he “has been responsible for many of the erroneous whip counts that embarrassed Boehner in the first place.” McCarthy has also faced serious heat from his party for saying he supports creating a legal status for illegal immigrants. And while he has voted to defund Obamacare, he’s also called for alternatives instead of scrapping the plan completely.
Names of other potential successors have also been floated, including Reps. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Tom Price of Georgia, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio.
4. He’s fiercely against abortion: McCarthy has called on Congress to immediately defund Planned Parenthood following the controversy surrounding secret video about the organization about its use of fetal tissue.
5. He’s against the Export-Import bank: McCarthy has spoken out against renewing the federal lending agency, which the GOP-led Congress allowed to go out of business this summer. It’s an issue that has divided the party, with supporters arguing it’s crucial for small American businesses and that the ban evens the playing field with foreign companies. Opponents, like McCarthy and tea party-aligned conservatives , have argued the loans really benefit giant corporations like Boeing and GE and that the issue is something the private sector can handle.
6. He’s a Young Gun founder: Alongside fellow Republican Reps. Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, the three lawmakers founded the popular Young Guns Program which hopes to build the next generation of conservative leaders.
7. Kevin Spacey learned a thing or two from him: The actor, who plays House Majority Whip Francis Underwood in the television drama “House of Cards,” shadowed McCarthy to learn more about the ins and outs of his jobs. “I don’t envy him. The position – It’s not easy,” Spacey told ABC last year.
8. He’s a former deli-owner: After winning $5,000 from the lottery in California when he was 19 years old, McCarthy opened “Kevin O’s Deli,” eventually selling the business and using the funds to attend California State University in Bakersfield.
9. He’s playing his cards close to his vest. McCarthy issued a statement of support for Boehner following his announcement, calling him a leader and a mentor. “It takes profound humility to step down from a position of power, and John’s depth of character is unmatched.” The GOPer added, “Now is the time for our conference to focus on healing and unifying to face the challenges ahead and always do what is best for the American people.” Although McCarthy has not indicated if he wants the job, Boehner said at a news conference that his deputy would make an “excellent speaker,” but noted it’s up to members to decide.