Kevin McCarthy will trade Biden impeachment vote for speakership: Former GOP congressman
Kevin McCarthy (Photo by Stefani Reynolds for AFP)

WASHINGTON, DC — Even with the dust still settling on the midterms — as election officials keep tallying mail-in ballots — one thing’s clear: the ranks of far-right Republicans who consider Joe Biden an illegitimate president are about to swell at the Capitol. Those new members are about to test House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy like never before.

Even with Democrats far exceeding expectations, Republicans are projected to net the 218 seats needed to take back control of the House of Representatives in the New Year, which will spark an inter-party leadership battle. McCarthy will be passed over for speaker, former Republican Congressman David Jolly (R-FL) predicts, unless he cuts a devil’s bargain with this new breed of far-right Republicans.

“If McCarthy is able to get 218 votes for his speakership, it will mean he's likely promised that he will impeach Biden,” Jolly predicted to Raw Story Wednesday. “The amount of currency that McCarthy will have to spend for a chance at becoming speaker is going to be very costly, and I don't know that he can pull it off.”

On the evening of Jan. 6, 2021, once law enforcement regained control of the Capitol, 139 House Republicans objected to certifying the 2020 election. At the start of the New Year, at a minimum, there will be 143 House Republicans in the new Congress who reject the 2020 returns. While the ranks of the far-right expanded in these midterms, the power of Trump-like Republicans who were already members of Congress also seems to have grown.

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Weeks before votes were cast, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), or MTG, had her hand out. McCarthy obliged.

Early in this Congress, Democrats—along with 11 Republicans—stripped MTG of her committee assignments because of a string of incendiary comments she had made, including saying “…it’s a crime punishable by death is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason…” Ahead of the election, McCarthy publicly promised to reinstate her to congressional committees. But Jolly suspects MTG and McCarthy are bargaining over more behind closed doors, or soon will be.

“Marjorie Taylor Greene will get something from him, and what will that be?” Jolly wondered aloud. “And what will that look like for McCarthy? Not strength, it will look like weakness. I honestly think he's going to have to promise to impeach Biden to get those votes.”

On the eve of the election, McCarthy was pressed by Melania Zanona on whether he’d entertain bringing articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden—as some on the far-right have promised their voters and as former President Trump is pushing the GOP to do.

“You know what’s on the table: Accountability,” McCarthy replied.

McCarthy left the door open for impeachment.

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Back in 2015, McCarthy was passed over for the speakership when the party coalesced around a reluctant Paul Ryan. Jolly says McCarthy remembers that episode well, and so does the rest of the party.

“He's known to be incredibly weak and feeble as a leader,” Jolly said. “You couldn't use John Boehner. You couldn't manipulate John Boehner. He was too strong of a leader. You couldn't manipulate Paul Ryan because you didn't want to. He's too nice of a guy. Kevin McCarthy is just this kind of weak-kneed leader who's always done enough to be the heir apparent but can never get it over the finish line.”

To win the speakership, McCarthy first has to lock in the support of the majority of House Republicans, but that’s still not official. The speaker presides over the entire House, thus McCarthy needs to solidify the support of 218 of his colleagues. Democrats won’t back him, which leaves the GOP’s new MAGA wing as the power brokers.

While we still don’t know the final make up of the House, it’s going to be a slim majority. That means any Republican, or block of Republicans, could hold out their support until McCarthy met their demands.

“To be honest, I think it's going to be very much like in 2015. McCarthy could easily get the majority of the caucus behind closed doors, but if he's sitting on a majority of 219 or 220, there's no way he gets 218 votes on the floor,” Jolly said. “Everybody in that room becomes a Joe Manchin!”

That’s why Jolly predicts McCarthy will soon find himself engaged in hostage negotiations with the new ranks of Republicans just sent to Washington.

“I think McCarthy now has to agree to impeach Biden to get the votes of [Reps.] MTG and [Matt] Gaetz and others,” Jolly predicted. “The best thing that could happen for Republicans is probably for McCarthy not to be able to make promises to secure the votes but instead have the whole thing implode and the chaos will lead to a unifying speaker, like Scalise, who hasn't had to make promises.”

While Jolly thinks Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana is a natural fit, he also is keeping an eye on the party’s number three, Elise Stefanik of New York who replaced Rep. Liz Cheney as GOP conference chair.

“Stefanik’s a wildcard. I think Stefanik is actually planning a straight challenge to McCarthy,” Jolly said. “She actually genuinely did the bidding of the crazy caucus over the last few years, whereas McCarthy got pulled into it out of necessity.”

Jolly says Scalise “could end up Speaker without running for it.”

“Although Paul Ryan truly didn't want it, Scalise does want it. He's just a classy guy who's happy to wait his turn, but I think he also knows it could fall in his lap here,” Jolly said. “Boehner was your father. Ryan was your friend. Speakers take on different personalities and that's where McCarthy’s just that untrustworthy guy you always have to look over your shoulder at. That's a weird leadership style. But Scalise is respected. He's everybody's buddy. He could be the guy that keeps the family together.”

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