McCarthy’s rise could be boon for tech

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Silicon Valley would be one of the winners if Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) becomes the next House majority leader.

The GOP whip has been a frequent guest at major tech companies’ headquarters and has had their back on nearly every issue in recent years, industry insiders say.

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“I think every time we’ve had something up or we’ve wanted to see progress on an issue, he’s been there for us,” said Andy Halataei, senior vice president of government relations at the Information Technology Industry Council.

The trade group, which includes giants like AOL, Facebook and Microsoft, named McCarthy its legislator of the year in 2012, praising his understanding of “the critical importance of technology and innovation to create jobs in California and across the country.”

From his home in Bakersfield, Calif., McCarthy has been a regular traveler to Silicon Valley to meet with company executives. Former aides and associates now work in the K Street shops of major tech firms like Facebook and Uber.

Silicon Valley backers told The Hill that the amiable lawmaker is a pro at paying attention to their companies’ role in the economy and making sure they are kept in the loop.

“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of McCarthy and his operation is that they take industry feedback into account when they’re moving legislation, in the sense that they want to be very clear about their goals and their agenda,” Halataei said. “They keep people in their thinking to hear how industry is going to view different pieces of legislation.”

Though Congress has been unable to check off many actual accomplishments of late, the House has moved on a number of issues critical to the tech sector.

Earlier this year, the House overwhelmingly passed a surveillance reform bill that tech companies hope will restore public trust in their services after leaks from Edward Snowden showed the National Security Agency was snooping on users with the acquiescence of companies.

The House also overwhelmingly passed a patent reform bill last year and has moved forward with tax measures supported by the industry.

Much of that success is due to McCarthy and other leaders’ ability to get lawmakers in line, industry lobbyists said, even in a period of hyper-partisanship and deep splits in the House GOP.

“If you’re in leadership in the House the last four years, you’ve got to be able to count votes and whip votes and do the sorts of things to move legislation through,” said Mike Hettinger, who leads public sector issues at the trade group TechAmerica.

“It takes compromise, more so now than probably ever before,” he added. “Clearly Congressman McCarthy has been successful in moving votes and helping to move legislation through the process.”

Decisions not to seek the No. 2 spot in the House from Reps. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other top Republicans over the last few days has made McCarthy the clear frontrunner for the post. 

His only opponent is Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who decided to jump into the race Friday to provide a more conservative alternative to McCarthy. 

A second-term lawmaker without a spot in the leadership structure, Labrador is more of an unknown quantity to tech advocates.

He has “just not been on our radar,” one tech lobbyist said.

The leadership spot cleared when current Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was defeated by a little-known economics professor in a shocking primary election on Tuesday night.

One major point of contention in the race was Cantor’s openness to granting citizenship to some immigrants in the country illegally. His loss was widely seen as a rebuke to that type of reform and supporters feared it could poison the well on immigration for years to come.

Tech industry lobbyists, who have been some of the most vocal advocates of sweeping reform, have pledged to keep up the push. The ascension of McCarthy could be a glimmer of hope, they say.

McCarthy’s district has a large Latino population and he personally has shown a strong support of visas for high-skilled immigrants, according to Veronica O’Connell, the vice president of congressional affairs at the Consumer Electronics Association.

“Out of the leadership team, I think on the high-skilled piece, he’s the go-to person on that issue,” she said.

McCarthy, she added, “really gets the importance to our industry.”