In public, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy offers most of his Republican members robust support. There are rare exceptions when GOP lawmakers are insufficiently partisan — see Wyoming’s Liz Cheney and Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger, for example — but rank-and-file Republican House members can generally count on McCarthy to have their backs.
In private, however, the GOP leader is at least capable of candor. NBC News reported overnight:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., feared that remarks by fellow Republican lawmakers could jeopardize the safety of other GOP members of Congress after the Jan. 6 riot, according to new audio recordings from just days after the attack on the Capitol. The recordings from a Jan. 10, 2021, call obtained by The New York Times shine a new light on the intensity of McCarthy’s private concerns about members of his own caucus at a time when his public appearances downplayed those worries.
Rachel aired newly released audio recordings on the show last night, offering the public a new opportunity to hear McCarthy complain about some of his far-right members — by name — whom the minority leader saw as going too far in the wake of the attack on the Capitol.
The House GOP leader said in reference to Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, for example, “He’s putting people in jeopardy — and he doesn’t need to be doing this.”
Other Republican members referenced by name in the Jan. 10 phone meeting were Alabama’s Mo Brooks, Colorado’s Lauren Boebert, Texas’ Louie Gohmert, and Alabama’s Barry Moore.
The same set of new recordings also confirm last week’s reporting that McCarthy wished social-media companies such as Twitter would strip some of his own members of their accounts.
A New York Times report added, “The country was ‘too crazy,’ Mr. McCarthy said, for members to be talking and tweeting recklessly at such a volatile moment.”
All of which leaves us with a familiar question: What happens now?
It’s entirely possible that McCarthy will, once again, not face any meaningful consequences. Last week, the minority leader briefly appeared to be in a precarious position after he was caught lying about telling his colleagues he was prepared to tell Donald Trump to resign the presidency. Trump, however, quickly made clear that he didn’t much care since McCarthy didn’t follow through.
As recently as Sunday, Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Fox News, “I think Kevin is in very good shape.... I can tell you, the support in the conference is very strong for him, and this is a little Beltway bubble blip, if you will. I don’t think it’s going to have any long-term consequences.”
But in the days that followed, the party has seen and heard more of what McCarthy had to say early last year, and while practically zero GOP lawmakers criticized the minority leader on the record last week, that’s starting to change.
Republican Rep. Andy Biggs, for example, told a conservative media outlet yesterday that McCarthy is facing “a huge trust issue“ in the wake of the latest revelations. The Arizonan, who led the far-right House Freedom Caucus, added that the GOP leader has “undermined the conference.”
Last night, Gaetz issued a written statement deriding McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise as having engaged in “the behavior of weak men, not leaders.” Around the same time, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, a prominent voice in Republican politics, told his viewers that if McCarthy becomes House Speaker next year, “we would have a Republican Congress led by a puppet of the Democratic Party.”
To be sure, on-the-record criticisms from two members and a media host does not an avalanche make, and McCarthy probably isn’t too worried about his standing in the party, at least not yet.
But the winds are just now starting to shift in ways they were not a few days ago.