Some doubt McCarthy or Scalise will ever lead House GOP

Some doubt McCarthy or Scalise will ever lead House GOP
© Greg Nash

Here’s a twist: Some congressional Republicans say it’s possible neither Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyGOP struggles with retirement wave Trump touts Washington Post story on GOP support Pence extends olive branch to Cummings after Trump's Baltimore attacks MORE (R-Calif.) nor Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn The Money: Senate panel scraps vote on key spending bill amid standoff | Democrats threaten to vote against defense bill over wall funding | Trump set to meet with aides about reducing capital gains taxes Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe House GOP rolls out energy proposal to counter Democrats offshore drilling ban MORE (R-La.) will be serving in House leadership after the November midterm elections.

McCarthy and Scalise  are seen as the front-runners to succeed Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea MORE (R-Wis.), but there is a contingent of conservatives who are agitating to throw out the entire current leadership team — particularly if a blue wave washes over the House and Democrats take back the lower chamber in November. 

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“I don’t think they can make the case [to remain] if they are in the majority or the minority,” Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashAmash: 'Bolton never should have been hired' Romney: Bolton firing 'a huge loss' for nation Amash says Sanford presidential bid won't impact decision on whether he runs in 2020 MORE (R-Mich.), a vocal member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, told The Hill. “I think you have to change the leadership team dramatically to get things back on track for our country. If that means changing all the members of leadership, then so be it.

“They haven’t succeeded in defending the American people — and that means defending all Americans from all backgrounds, from all political viewpoints.”

Added longtime Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesRepublican Greg Murphy wins special election in NC's 3rd District Early voting extended in NC counties impacted by Dorian ahead of key House race The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina special election poses test for GOP ahead of 2020 MORE (R-N.C.): “We need a new look, and a new look doesn’t mean you go back to the past; you look to go to the future.”

Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarOvernight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe House approves two bills to block Trump drilling House GOP rolls out energy proposal to counter Democrats offshore drilling ban MORE (R-Ariz.), another Freedom Caucus member, said he wouldn’t back anyone for a leadership job who helped draft or push through the $1.3 trillion omnibus government funding bill last month that included higher spending figures for defense and domestic programs.

“Right now, I’m not interested in anybody in the current leadership team because the system is so broken. We need someone to come out, maybe someone who is not a member of Congress, because good policy builds good politics. What we just did is horrendous policy,” Gosar said of the omnibus package.

“I don’t even want to stick with that team now. I want a new team.”

Leadership allies point out these critics are the same hard-line conservatives who pressured then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' MORE (R-Ohio) to resign in the fall of 2015 and who have been a thorn in Ryan’s side for the past 2 1/2 years.

And for every conservative lawmaker wanting a clean slate, there are many more Republicans arguing that the current team will mostly stay intact, no matter what happens in the elections.

“I think our team is a good team,” Rep. Leonard LanceLeonard LanceGun debate to shape 2020 races GOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Bottom Line MORE (R-N.J.) told The Hill. “I have confidence in the leadership team that we have.”

But the conservative Freedom Caucus, and its allies like Jones and Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieAirports already have plenty of infrastructure funding Overnight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border House votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Ky.), could play an enormous role in selecting the next GOP Speaker. If the bloc of roughly 30 conservatives band together, they can prevent McCarthy, Scalise or anyone else from securing the required 218 votes needed to win the gavel on the House floor.

No one has 218 votes as of now, one reason why Ryan has not called new leadership elections in the middle of the term. And even if President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE weighs in on behalf of McCarthy, his close ally on Capitol Hill, there are no guarantees the majority leader would be able to reach the magic number.

Trump’s “voice will certainly have a strong influence on who’s going to lead the party going forward,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsGOP struggles with retirement wave Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing Meadows, Cotton introduce bill to prevent district judges from blocking federal policy changes MORE (R-N.C.) told reporters. But he added: “No one has the votes to get to 218. … There is no one in this body who can be the Speaker other than Speaker Ryan.”

McCarthy, Ryan’s top lieutenant whom he endorsed over the weekend, would have a much easier path to be elected minority leader if Democrats flip control of the House this fall. According to House GOP rules, a minority leader only needs to win a simple majority of the entire Republican conference, a figure much lower than 218 or half of the entire 435-member House.

But some conservative voices in the GOP conference are warning that an anti-Trump, Democratic wave election won’t just wash Republicans out of the majority — it would also sweep Ryan’s entire leadership team out of power.

That could mean McCarthy, Scalise, and Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryManufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Hasan Minhaj tells Congress: Student loan debt is 'sidelining millions of Americans' Hillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections MORE (R-N.C.) could be overthrown as rank-and-file Republicans seek to press the reset button.

“If there is a blue wave and we lose it,” said one leading House conservative, “I can’t imagine that there would be a constituency who would suggest we keep a losing leadership team in power.”

Losing is so much on the mind of one House Republican than he’s been joking with GOP colleagues that he’s running for “minority leader” this fall.

Even after Democrats lost the House majority in the 2010 Tea Party wave election, then-Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Democrats will 'certainly' beat Trump in 2020 Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing MORE (D-Calif.) was able to hang on to control and stay on as minority leader.

On the GOP side of the aisle, there isn’t a clear precedent. In the wake of House Republicans’ defeat in 2006, then-Speaker Dennis HastertJohn (Dennis) Dennis HastertFeehery: Impeachment fever bad for Democratic governing vision Feehery: The cheeseburger election Feehery: Borders and walls MORE (R-Ill.) resigned from office and BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' MORE, then Hastert’s top deputy as majority leader, was elected minority leader. Hastert’s majority whip, then-Rep. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? MORE (R-Mo.), stuck around for one term as minority whip before leaving for the Senate.

“It should be” a complete house cleaning if Republicans lose the chamber this fall, said another House GOP lawmaker. “That’s the mistake the Democrats made in keeping Nancy Pelosi around after losing the House. She’s kept us in the majority. That was their mistake.”

It’s unclear who exactly could step up and lead the GOP conference in a massive shake-up. Would House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersSocial determinants of health — health care isn't just bugs and bacteria Lawmakers deride FTC settlement as weak on Facebook Overnight Energy: Fight over fuel standards intensifies | Democrats grill Trump officials over rule rollback | California official blasts EPA chief over broken talks | Former EPA official says Wheeler lied to Congress MORE (Wash.), the only woman in leadership, be spared? As the No. 4 leader, she mostly manages the 237-member conference, its meetings and its retreats, though she also attends political strategy sessions.

Other names floated by GOP lawmakers include Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenEXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns House panel investigating private equity firms' role in surprise medical billing Hotel industry mounts attack on Airbnb with House bill MORE (R-Ore.), the House GOP’s campaign chief during the winning 2014 and 2016 cycles; Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyRepublicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea Republicans' rendezvous with reality — their plan is to cut Social Security The Social Security 2100 Act is critical for millennials and small business owners MORE (R-Texas), who just came off a big victory with the passage of tax reform; Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe House GOP rolls out energy proposal to counter Democrats offshore drilling ban MORE (R-Utah), the former Speaker of the Utah state House; and Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerTo boost minority serving institutions, bipartisan Future Act needs immediate action Pressure rises on Cheney to make decision NCAA urges California governor not to sign 'fair pay' bill for college athletes MORE (R-N.C.).

Former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMeadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader House Republicans want details on Democrats' trips to Mexico GOP lawmakers, states back gunmaker in Sandy Hook appeal MORE (R-Ohio) has also said he’s interested in running for Speaker or another leadership post, though he’s seen as a long shot.

Asked by The Hill this week if he would consider the Speakership if no one else can reach 218 votes, Brady replied that his “best contribution for our party is right here as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. That’s where I intend to stay.”

Rep. Tim WalbergTimothy (Tim) Lee WalbergPro-trade group targets Democratic leadership in push for new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate On The Money: Mnuchin signals officials won't release Trump tax returns | Trump to hold off on auto tariffs | WH nears deal with Mexico, Canada on metal tariffs | GOP fears trade war fallout for farmers | Warren, regulator spar over Wells Fargo MORE (R-Mich.), a leadership ally, is siding with Ryan in supporting McCarthy for Speaker. But he said either McCarthy or Scalise would make “excellent Speakers” because “they’ve shown loyalty to the conference.”

Still, Walberg added that he “can’t guarantee” that McCarthy or Scalise will still be in leadership next year “with the Freedom Caucus and others making their play.”