By Scott Wong - 10/06/15 11:02 PM EDT
McCarthy’s pitch to conservatives: ‘I’m not John Boehner’
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s message to dozens of House conservatives was succinct: “I’m not John Boehner.”
McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been desperately trying to distance himself from Boehner (R-Ohio), the man he wants to replace as Speaker of the House. His latest attempt came Tuesday night as he made his pitch to a dozens of conservative lawmakers at the Capitol Hill Club.
“I’m not John Boehner. I’m going to run things differently. I’m my own man,” McCarthy said, according to one conservative in the room, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).
McCarthy is expected to easily win the nomination for Speaker when House Republicans hold a closed-door vote Thursday. But he’s having a tougher time winning over some of the conservative hard-liners he needs to secure 218 votes in a roll call of the entire House set for Oct. 29.
McCarthy made his pitch to a joint meeting of the House Freedom Caucus, Liberty Caucus, Tea Party Caucus and the Conservative Opportunity Society, then snuck out a side door, avoiding a crush of TV cameras and reporters.
The other Speaker candidates who addressed the groups were Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzOvernight Cybersecurity: Watchdog report dings Clinton email security IRS head vows to finish term despite impeachment push Top Oversight Dem blames GOP cuts for poor cybersecurity MORE (R-Utah), who joined the race over the weekend.
“We’re still an underdog. I get that. But we’re gonna give it a go,” Chaffetz told reporters before the meeting, his wife by his side. “I’m offering myself as an alternative. I still think there is a need and a desire to unify this party. I think I’m uniquely situated to do that.”
McCarthy didn’t make any firm commitments to the groups, but all three candidates said they wanted to see more bills move through committees and to the House floor — remarks that were warmly received by the room.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) emerged from the meeting saying he was backing McCarthy. Buck said McCarthy is personable, has good experience as majority whip and leader, and was instrumental in winning the largest House GOP majority in generations.
“The party will come together [behind McCarthy], and I think he’ll be very successful,” said Buck, the freshman class president.
Still, McCarthy faced harsh criticism from others in the room. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), one of a handful of conservatives backing Webster, said he didn’t see how the majority leader, Boehner’s top deputy, would be any different if he ascended to Speaker.
Jones personally told McCarthy he was frustrated that the GOP leader had refused to bring one of his bills, naming a courthouse, to the floor. After Jones complained to The Hill, calling the move petty, a top McCarthy staffer warned Jones’s office that he “shouldn’t have said that,” according to Jones.
“You can’t tell me that because you’re the majority leader today ... that you’re gonna change when you are Speaker of the House. I don’t think that happens,” Jones told reporters.
“You’re not going to change your stripes when you get to a different position. That just doesn’t happen.”