Kevin McCarthy, speaker-in-waiting, lays out foreign policy vision

29 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 things to know about Kevin McCarthy.

When Kevin Spacey was getting ready to play his role as Frank Underwood on the hit series “House of Cards,” he turned to another Kevin for help: Rep. WASHINGTON — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the front-runner to replace House Speaker John Boehner, denounced President Barack Obama’s foreign policy on Monday, saying the U.S. has “lost the respect of allies and adversaries alike.” McCarthy, R-Calif., who spoke after the president addressed the United Nations, said the U.S. should consider putting some special forces on the ground in Iraq to help coordinate airstrikes against Islamic State militants. He also backed a no-fly zone in northern Syria to stem the flow of refugees, and provide a space for Syrian rebels to fight the militants — steps the White House has so far opposed. “We must wage this war against radical Islam as if our life depended on it. McCarthy, the 50-year-old Californian who’s the favorite to replace John Boehner as House speaker, let the actor shadow him — but says his life doesn’t mirror Spacey’s character’s in the political drama. “When I look at his life I don’t see anything much like ours,” the congressman said last year of the fictional politician Netflix describes as “ruthless.” He’s got fans at Goldman Sachs: First elected to the House in 2006, McCarthy became majority leader in 2014.

The second-biggest contributors to McCarthy during his House career have been employees of Goldman Sachs GS, -3.79% , as well as the company’s political-action committee. Lost amid all of the focus on finding out who McCarthy really is — and what he plans to do with his newfound power — is this pesky little reality: It’s virtually certain that McCarthy (or anyone else who succeeds Boehner) will, eventually, find him- or herself caught between the so-called “establishment” and “tea party” wings of the Republican party.

Caught, that is, between a group of pols who want to fight for their priorities but understand that compromise requires, well, compromise, and those who believe any form of compromise is tantamount to capitulation. How he got into politics: McCarthy was an intern and later a staffer for his local congressman, Bill Thomas, who once headed the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

Reporters rushed McCarthy after his speech, but he wouldn’t confirm that he was going to run for the speakership, even though it’s widely expected that he will. He’s a lottery winner: McCarthy opened a sandwich shop in his native Bakersfield, Calif., called Kevin O’s Deli — financed with $5,000 he won with a lottery ticket. Listen to Boehner himself: “We have got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know, they know are never going to happen,” said Boehner in an interview on “Face the Nation” on Sunday. According to the Orange County Register, he charged $3.95 for an 8-inch “Turkey Supreme,” and the proceeds from his business went toward college at Cal State Bakersfield, where he got a bachelor of science in marketing.

Two cellphones: McCarthy has a BlackBerry and an iPhone, Politico writes, and they’re both ringing off the hook since Boehner announced he was leaving. And the reality of Boehner’s departure is that the “groups” he references — Heritage Action, to name one — will be significantly emboldened by his decision. “Today’s announcement is a sign that the voice of the American people is breaking through in Washington,” Heritage Action said Friday in a statement. “Now is the time for a principled, conservative leader to emerge.” In addition to a newly energized tea party base in (and outside of) Washington, the only change between the House Republican conference Boehner led and the one McCarthy will lead come December is that Boehner won’t be there anymore. McCarthy stayed in Washington this past weekend, in a departure from heading back to California or out on the road to raise money for Republican colleagues. Hispanic activists are counting on him: McCarthy’s district has a Hispanic constituency of about 35%, and activists are hoping he’ll push comprehensive immigration reform. Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, told Fox News Latino this about a potential McCarthy speakership: “We would call on him to represent the richness of our state’s diversity.”

The next few months present several fiscal battles in which conservatives are pushing for a confrontation with Democrats in the Senate or a veto fight with President Obama. When we get to a tough vote or a budget showdown (or the like), what motivates individual members is what has motivated politicians since the beginning of time: self-interest. The elimination of earmarking — a way in which lawmakers were able to secure funds for a pet project in their districts — has taken the one carrot that leaders could dangle in front of the rank and file away. The rise of outside conservative organizations who can provide a funding stream to ambitious pols that is totally removed from (and often opposed to) the party leadership means that bucking the top dogs no longer equals political death.

The massive gains that Republicans made at the state legislative level in the 2010 midterm election allowed the GOP to draw lots and lots of incredibly partisan congressional districts where it’s not possible to be “too conservative.” And so on. Simply subbing Boehner for McCarthy doesn’t change the underlying dynamics that made the job so thankless for Boehner — and ultimately drove him to decide to step aside.

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