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 McCarthyAfter police rip Trump for Jan. 6, McCarthy again blames Pelosi Capitol Police asked to arrest the maskless 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade MORE (R-Calif.) nor Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRepublican governors revolt against CDC mask guidance House to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance What you need to know about the new COVID-19 surge 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 RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece 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 warns of turning lawmakers like Cheney into 'heroes' Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Biden: 'Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK' 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 JonesHillary Clinton brings up 'Freedom Fries' to mock 'cancel culture' Georgia officials open inquiry into Trump efforts to overturn election results Supreme Court declines to hear case challenging unlimited super PAC fundraising 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 GosarReporter: Gosar's immigration proposal shows lack of 'unifying theme' for GOP opposition Gaetz, Greene and Gohmert turned away from jail to visit Jan. 6 defendants Five takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony 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 BoehnerGOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger Freedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi Stripping opportunity from DC's children 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 LanceKean Jr. to run against Malinowski: report Thomas Kean wins GOP primary to take on Rep. Tom Malinowski Gun debate to shape 2020 races 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 MassieBiden asks Pentagon to examine 'how and when' to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for troops House at war over Jan. 6 inquiry, mask mandate Tempers flare as some in GOP ignore new House mask mandate 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 TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' 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 MeadowsTrump takes two punches from GOP Watchdog urges Justice to probe Trump, Meadows for attempting to 'weaponize' DOJ Washington Post calls on Democrats to subpoena Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Meadows for testimony on Jan. 6 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 McHenryHouse Democrats scrambling to set up vote on eviction ban extension On The Money: Biden asks Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration | Economic growth rose to 6.5 percent annual rate in second quarter Biden calls on Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration 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 PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris 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: It's time for Senate Republicans to play hardball on infrastructure Bottom line Feehery: Running against the Democratic dystopia MORE (R-Ill.) resigned from office and BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerGOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger Freedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi Stripping opportunity from DC's children MORE, then Hastert’s top deputy as majority leader, was elected minority leader. Hastert’s majority whip, then-Rep. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon passes on Senate campaign The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands 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 RodgersLatina lawmakers discuss efforts to increase representation CDC backtracks with new mask guidance CDC: Vaccinated people should now wear masks in high transmission areas 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 WaldenEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Ex-Rep. John Shimkus joins lobbying firm Lobbying world 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 focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change GOP, business groups snipe at Biden restaurant remarks Top Democrat offers bill to overhaul tax break for 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 BishopGOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE (R-Utah), the former Speaker of the Utah state House; and Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerFirst hearing set for lawsuit over Florida's new anti-riot bill NRA appealing Florida ban on gun sales to people under 21 Trump's biggest political obstacle is Trump MORE (R-N.C.).

Former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan acknowledges talking to Trump on Jan. 6 AP Fact Check rates GOP claim Pelosi blocked National Guard on Jan. 6 'false' Officers' powerful Capitol riot testimony underscores Pelosi's partisan blunder 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 WalbergEquilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — West Coast wildfires drive East Coast air quality alerts House passes bill requiring EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water GOP divided on anti-Biden midterm message 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.”