Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) has been one of the few congressional Republicans willing to publicly criticize Donald Trump, but the Illinois congressman isn't limiting his intra-party concerns to the former president.
Yesterday, for example, Kinzinger said he specifically warned House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calf.) that their party was courting violence in the days preceding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, but McCarthy "dismissively" blew him off. In a National Press Club interview, Kinzinger added that in the wake of the insurrectionist riot, he considered bringing a vote of no confidence against McCarthy.
"I actually thought the person that should have their leadership challenged was Kevin McCarthy after Jan. 6, because that's why this all happened," the Illinois Republican said.
As it turns out, Kinzinger isn't the only GOP lawmaker with concerns about the House minority leader. Politico reported this morning that there are signs of a burgeoning "backlash" against McCarthy, with some House Republicans questioning his "leadership qualities" and "privately griping" that the GOP leader has fed Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to the wolves in order to advance his own ambitions.
Politico added, "And no, we're not just hearing this from Adam Kinzinger types." Rather, according to one unnamed House GOP member -- described as "a Republican long seen as an ally of leadership" -- McCarthy lacks a moral compass.
"Kevin McCarthy has pissed off enough members of his own conference that he's going to have to go back to his former days as a whip to try to figure out where his votes are" to become speaker, said the member, who is neither a member of the Freedom Caucus nor a moderate. "I'd be worried if I was him.... You have people like me — who are here to do the right thing for all the right reasons and have an expectation of leadership — that are, shall we say, disgusted with the internal squabbling that results from having weak leadership. And it is weak leadership. Straight up."
The same article quoted a senior GOP aide to a conservative member who said, in reference to McCarthy, "It seems like he doesn't have the backbone to lead. He bends to political pressure. It's tough to do when you're speaker. You have to lead."
This is consistent with the latest criticisms from the Washington Post's Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, who said McCarthy deserves an award for "monumental smallness in a time demanding leadership." (Gerson previously described the House minority leader as the United States' "most disgraceful political leader.")
What McCarthy needs to realize is that by trying to please so many Republican factions, he's managing to aggravate each of them.
Indeed, chatter along these lines has been brewing for months. In late February, for example, Peter Navarro, a prominent voice in Trump World, lashed out at the House GOP leader, insisting, "Kevin McCarthy has to go. He no longer has the confidence of the MAGA portion of the Republican Party. He should not be welcome at Mar-a-Lago."
The Hill reported a few weeks earlier that House Republicans were "voicing frustrations" with McCarthy and what they saw as "inconsistent" leadership. That came on the heels of Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) telling reporters, in comments directed at McCarthy and others, "[W]e have leadership issues."
Those "issues" aren't going away.
To be sure, it's a tough job. The minority leader is trying to lead a radicalized Republican conference, with no interest in governing and a set of wildly unpopular beliefs, while scrambling to satisfy his party's failed former president, who has more power and influence than McCarthy, even over many of McCarthy's own members. It's a daunting challenge for anyone, much less an unaccomplished seven-term congressman.
But that doesn't change the fact that McCarthy is struggling to pass this test.