In the lead-up to today’s voting for House speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., struggled to corral support. And in an effort to garner it, he reportedly made all sorts of concessions that diminish the power he hopes to wield as majority leader.
McCarthy, for example, has agreed to a rule that would allow a group of five lawmakers to call for a vote to remove the speaker. And he has gone along with right-wingers’ conspiratorial claims in demanding that a committee be formed to investigate the “weaponization of government against our citizens.”
McCarthy failed to secure enough votes to be named speaker when House members cast their first ballots today, sending the speaker vote to a second round for the first time in a century. And then he failed in the second round as well. And the third round. The process will continue until someone is able to cobble together enough votes to win a majority.
Many conservatives have feasted on the carcass of McCarthy’s authority like vultures at high noon by trying to exact steeper costs from him in exchange for their votes. On Monday, the right-wing Club for Growth waded into the debate with a list of its own demands that closely aligned with some of the most conservative members of Congress.
The Club for Growth, which releases annual scorecards purporting to grade lawmakers’ conservatism, urged House members to vote against any nominee for speaker who doesn’t agree to these demands. (Read the full list here.)
To me, the most interesting of these demands is the group’s mandate that the Congressional Leadership Fund, a McCarthy-linked super PAC that seeks to elect Republicans to the House, be “prohibited from spending money or providing grants to any super PAC to engage in open Republican primaries or against any Republican incumbent.”
As The New York Times noted on Monday, that demand “reflected a top grievance of conservative hard-liners in the House who are irate that Mr. McCarthy has used the committee to back more mainstream candidates.”
A little background: The Club for Growth was firmly in Trump’s corner for years until a fallout last year, before the midterms. Still, the group has maintained its extremist bonafides. For example, in Pennsylvania’s Senate primary, the group backed right-wing conspiracy theorist Kathy Barnette over Trump’s pick, Mehmet Oz, and the GOP establishment’s pick, David McCormick.
The Club for Growth’s rule would make it easier for extremist candidates to get elected. McCarthy, who’s struggling to manage the extremists already in Congress, doesn’t seem suited to handle any more. But he ultimately may risk that possibility if it means he can become speaker.