Republicans could pick off enough support from wayward Democrats to take control of the House, even if they don't win an outright majority, a member of the GOP leadership suggested this weekend.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the GOP's chief deputy whip and director of recruiting new candidates, suggested Republicans could win the speakership or, at the very least, enjoy de facto control of the House, even if they don't win the 39 seats needed to gain an outright majority.
"We need 39 seats. Take it, for instance, say we win 34," McCarthy said in an interview on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program, which is scheduled to air this weekend but was posted online Friday.
He suggested if that happens some Democrats might not support Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to be speaker, and might instead opt to vote with Republicans to pursue their priorities.
"Why would they want to keep her [Pelosi]? And why wouldn't they want to go with other people to be able to produce it?" McCarthy asked. "Why do you think that if we don't win 39, we still couldn't be able to get speaker?"
His musings suggest the GOP is looking at options to make now-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) the speaker of the House by pursuing a coalition with Democrats.
Pelosi won the speakership in the last two Congresses with unanimous support from Democratic lawmakers. But some members have suggested they are willing to oppose her.
Rep. Walter Minnick (D-Idaho), a first-term lawmaker in a conservative district, might not vote for her again. His campaign told The Hill in May that the congressman would not commit to voting for Pelosi if Democrats maintain control of the chamber. And Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.), who also represents a conservative district, has said his support for Pelosi as speaker would hinge on how Democrats fare during the election.
Both Minnick and Boren are top GOP targets this cycle and Republicans are using their previous support of Pelosi against them.
Even if Republicans can't manage enough defectors to cobble together support for Boehner as speaker, they might be able to effectively control the floor of the House if they win enough seats in the elections, McCarthy said.
"What if we win 34? Our ideas will be so strong, you look at the bipartisan vote on every bill that majority's produced — we would then have a majority on the floor. Much as Ronald Reagan, when he was in the presidency and Democrats had the majority, he ran the floor of the House," he said. "Our ideas are stronger than their mismanagement. So we would be able to have our ideas move through."
Republicans have boasted during many of the leading legislative fights over the past year and a half that the only thing bipartisan about Democrats' bills have been the opposition.
Eleven House Democrats opposed the $787 billion stimulus package, 44 opposed the climate change bill, 33 opposed healthcare reform, and 19 opposed Wall Street reform.
McCarthy said he expected Pelosi to face a challenge to her speakership regardless of how many votes Republicans win this fall.
And, as for Republicans, McCarthy said the only candidate to lead the House GOP next year would be Boehner, a leader who had been seen as vulnerable to a challenge but has shored up his support in recent months.
"Why would it change?" McCarthy said of the position of Republican leader. "We're gaining seats."
And despite rumors of a rift between Boehner and GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), McCarthy said Cantor would become majority leader under a GOP-controlled House. McCarthy downplayed any interest he might have in a leadership position next year.