McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote

House Republicans on Wednesday overwhelmingly elected Rep. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Bret Stephens: Would love to see Hannity react when Dem declares climate change emergency MORE (Calif.) as their new leader, rejecting a challenge from conservative Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Rod Rosenstein’s final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power MORE (Ohio) and turning to a familiar face as they prepare to grapple with life in the minority.

McCarthy, the majority leader for the past four years, trounced Jordan in a 159-43 vote — a lopsided outcome that McCarthy allies saw as a firm rebuke of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of conservative bomb-throwers co-founded by Jordan that frequently clashes with GOP leadership.  

ADVERTISEMENT

It was a good day for McCarthy, who just more than three years ago shockingly abandoned a bid for the Speakership after Rep. John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Bill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Left flexes muscle in immigration talks MORE (R-Ohio) announced his retirement, paving the way for Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE (R-Wis.) to become Speaker.

The withdrawal in 2015 raised questions about McCarthy’s future, but the California Republican is now both the leader of his conference and a trusted ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE.

“We know the Democrats have a plan: They want to disrupt. They want to try to impeach. And they want to stall what achievements we were able to move forward,” McCarthy, flanked by his new leadership team, told reporters after his victory. “But we know America is too great for such a small vision.”

Earlier Wednesday, there were reports that Trump had put pressure on McCarthy to cut a deal with conservatives and make Jordan the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

But McCarthy allies said there would be a revolt in the conference if Jordan was handed the prized Judiciary post after suffering a blowout in the leader race. The leadership-aligned Republican Steering Committee will pick their committee leaders after Thanksgiving.

“There would be a lot of people who would have conversations with Leader McCarthy if Jordan was rewarded with a ranking member spot due to pressure from the president and our leadership team to try to steer the Steering Committee,” one McCarthy ally told The Hill.

Republican lawmakers also selected Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Texas man with politician hit list, illegally 3D printed rifle sentenced to eight years The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? MORE (La.) by voice vote to be minority whip, the No. 2 Republican.

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyOvernight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Liz Cheney calls for House vote on Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Liz Cheney mocks Booker over factory farming comments: 'I support PETA - People Eating Tasty Animals' MORE (Wyo.), former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter, will succeed GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHillicon Valley: Republicans demand answers from mobile carriers on data practices | Top carriers to stop selling location data | DOJ probing Huawei | T-Mobile execs stayed at Trump hotel as merger awaited approval House Republicans question mobile carriers on data practices Washington governor announces killer whale recovery plan MORE (Wash.), who opted not to run for a fourth term in leadership. At the No. 3 spot, Cheney is now the highest-ranking woman in GOP leadership in the Capitol.

Both Scalise and Cheney ran unopposed.

In other uncontested races, Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerPartnerships paving the way to sustain and support Historically Black Colleges and Universities Lawmaker seeks to ban ex-members from lobbying until sexual harassment settlements repaid Florida governor suspends Palm Beach County elections supervisor MORE (R-N.C.), a Baptist preacher and leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee, was elected GOP conference vice chairman, while current GOP Conference Secretary Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithDon’t extend the electric vehicle tax credit; repeal it The Hill's Morning Report — Nasty shutdown fight gets nastier Democrat responds to being told 'go back to Puerto Rico' on House floor MORE (R-Mo.) won another two years in that post.

Meanwhile, Republicans picked Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 GOP maps out early 2020 strategy to retake House Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy MORE (R-Minn.) to lead candidate recruitment and campaign efforts as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee as the GOP tries to win back the majority in 2020.

In the only other competitive race, Rep. Gary PalmerGary James PalmerMcCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders MORE (R-Ala.) defeated fellow Freedom Caucus member Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertHouse Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for Ethics committee expanding investigation into GOP rep over finance questions McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote MORE (R-Ariz.) in the race for GOP Policy Committee chairman.

The election of McCarthy, the 53-year-old former deli owner and congressional aide, hands the reins of leadership to a proven fundraiser who speaks to Trump on a weekly basis.

For the past several election cycles, McCarthy had barnstormed every corner of the country, campaigning and raising millions of dollars for current and future GOP colleagues — efforts that he called in this week as he ran for the top GOP slot.

A day earlier, McCarthy made his pitch to colleagues as to why he was the right man to lead the party back to the majority in two years. Republicans, he said, need to do a better job competing with Democrats on the fundraising front and picking better primary candidates who can win in the general election, according to lawmakers in the room.

“I’ve worked with Kevin since he got here, been at his chairmen’s table for four years. He’s the right guy,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayAdam Schiff, Glenn Simpson and their Forrest Gump-like encounter in Aspen Schumer hits back at Trump: ‘He’s hostage-taking once again’ Hillicon Valley: House Intel panel will release Russia interviews | T-Mobile, Sprint step up merger push | DHS cyber office hosting webinars on China | Nest warns customers to shore up password security MORE (R-Texas), who attends a weekly meeting in McCarthy’s office, told The Hill. “He’s got the contacts, he’s got that stratosphere of donors that can match Michael Bloomberg and those guys.”

McCarthy has had a rapid ascent in Washington, though it has not always been smooth.

The gregarious lawmaker got his start in politics in the late 1990s in California’s Central Valley as an aide to then-Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), the powerful Ways and Means Committee chairman, whom McCarthy would later replace in Congress after a stint as minority leader in the California Assembly.

In 2008, just two years after arriving in Washington, McCarthy was catapulted into leadership when then-Minority Whip Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorPelosi warns GOP: Next president could declare national emergency on guns Ousted GOP lawmaker David Brat named dean at Liberty University business school Trump, GOP seek to shift blame for shutdown to Pelosi MORE (R-Va.) tapped him to be his chief deputy whip. When a Tea Party wave swept Republicans into power in 2010, Cantor was promoted to majority leader and McCarthy won the majority whip job, the GOP’s top vote-counter and No. 3 post.

In 2014, Cantor’s shocking primary loss to Tea Party insurgent Dave Brat (R-Va.) cleared a path for McCarthy to take the majority leader post, the No. 2 job. And when BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Bill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Left flexes muscle in immigration talks MORE quit the very next year, McCarthy was positioned to rise again.

But a major political gaffe on Fox News — suggesting the GOP had launched a special Benghazi committee to politically harm Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone shares, quickly deletes Instagram photo of federal judge on his case Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Why the national emergency? A second term may be Trump’s only shield from an indictment MORE’s White House bid — proved to be an enormous setback. After the new conservative Freedom Caucus refused to back him, denying him the 218 votes he needed on the House floor, McCarthy abruptly dropped out of the Speaker’s race on the day of the leadership election and threw his support to Ryan.

After 2½ years as Speaker, Ryan in April announced his retirement from Congress, setting off a shadow campaign between his top deputies, McCarthy and Scalise, to replace him.

But that growing rivalry was put on ice after Democrats picked up more than 30 GOP House seats in last week’s midterm elections and relegated Republicans to minority status beginning in January. McCarthy had personally campaigned for most of those Republicans who lost on election night, including Reps. Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderMike Pompeo to speak at Missouri-Kansas Forum amid Senate bid speculation Yoder, Messer land on K Street Bold, bipartisan action on child care will win plenty of friends MORE (Kan.), Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsGOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads Top 10 events of 2018 that shaped marijuana policy Washington braces for lengthy shutdown MORE (Texas), John FasoJohn James FasoGOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads Tax law failed to save GOP majority New York New Members 2019 MORE (N.Y.) and David YoungDavid Edmund YoungIowa New Members 2019 McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote Dem Axne beats GOP Rep. Young in Iowa MORE (Iowa).

McCarthy’s victory Wednesday comes during a grim moment for his own California GOP delegation. Democrats have flipped four GOP-controlled seats in the Bakersfield Republican’s home state, including those held by Reps. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamCrazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Polling editor says news outlets should be more cautious calling elections Rep. Valadao officially concedes in California race MORE, Steve KnightStephen (Steve) Thomas KnightFreshman Dem endorses Harris’s 2020 bid GOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Ryan casts doubt on 'bizarre' California election results MORE and Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherExpanding Social Security: Popular from sea to shining sea Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds Democrats need a worthy climate plan MORE. And Democrats are in position to flip two more seats in Orange County, once a GOP stronghold.

If newly empowered Democrats choose Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDonald Trump proved himself by winning fight for border security Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress The national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season MORE (D-Calif.) to return as Speaker in January, it will mean both parties in the lower chamber will be controlled by leaders from the same state for the first time in history.

This story was updated at 5 p.m.