Democratic lawmakers float striking deal with McCarthy for speaker’s vote


Kevin McCarthy
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., holds a news conference following GOP leadership elections for the 117th Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Democratic lawmakers float striking deal with McCarthy for speaker’s vote

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With House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) facing a more turbulent road to the speakership after Republicans’ lackluster gains on election night, some Democrats argue that attempting to strike a deal with the California Republican in exchange for speaker votes on the floor could be beneficial as other Democrats float attempting to nominate an alternative GOP choice like outgoing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) to serve in the role.

As members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus threaten to withhold their votes for McCarthy unless he gives them concessions on a number of demands, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) floated the idea of McCarthy attempting to seek support across the aisle.

“Just cut a deal with the Dems Kevin. Whatever you get from Freedom Caucus will not be worth it. The odds will be good but the goods will be odd,” the Arizona Democrat tweeted on Thursday.


With the Freedom Caucus having played a key role in pushing former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to step down and demanding changes to the motion to vacate the chair to ease the process of ousting a sitting speaker, one Democratic member argued that a McCarthy speakership may have more staying power if he doesn’t strike a deal with his conservative critics.

“If he asks, [it could be a possibility]. Either you can be speaker for two years and go cash out on Wall Street or be speaker for three months and get pushed out by the Freedom Caucus,” one lawmaker said, adding that the specific demands that could be made that would be palatable enough to get the Democrats on board are “above my pay grade, but that is what I would do.”

The member added that they believe McCarthy is “so vapid and desperate for power” they could likely extract a lot out of the California Republican.

“Won’t know that until the dust settles, the margin is determined, and how badly McCarthy needs some Dem support. Anything is possible,” another member said. “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, not in speakership races.”

One progressive member said that a deal with McCarthy may not be the worst idea for Democrats in the event that a firebrand conservative appears the likely alternative to McCarthy.

“I doubt it, but I guess if the alternative is [Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)], could be possible. I think it’d be more about the alternative than anything he could give,” they said.


Other members shot down the idea, arguing that McCarthy’s rhetoric surrounding the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol is disqualifying for anyone to support him regardless of what he could offer.

“Under no circumstances would just about any Dem ever vote for someone who has downplayed Jan. 6. I’m one of the most bipartisan people in the place, and the thought of supporting him makes me laugh. It’s an insane proposition to consider supporting someone like him. I would never do that. No Dem with principles and a belief in democracy would ever do that,” one centrist said.

The member added that there are currently private conversations about nominating and “voting for [Rep.] Liz [Cheney] and getting a hearty group of both sides to vote for her as a rebuke of Trumpism in a scenario where Kevin couldn’t get the votes. I would classify them as serious in intent to put forth a principled option with the goal of bringing people together but not serious in that I can’t imagine that getting to 218.”

Cheney, who lost her primary election in August and was ousted from her leadership position by her conference over her criticisms of former President Donald Trump and his role in inciting the siege on Jan. 6, has been praised by Democrats for her decision to buck party lines and serve on the Jan. 6 select committee and endorse a handful of Democrats over GOP opponents who denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election results.


McCarthy spokesman Mark Bednar said no when asked whether the California Republican would be willing to seek Democratic votes if he falls short of the Republican support needed to secure the position.

One Democratic operative noted that striking a deal with McCarthy could lead to political consequences and would likely be shot down by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) if she remains the top Democrat in the House.

“That’s political suicide for any Dem that votes for that. You may get a naive mod who thinks it makes sense. I imagine some responsible adult would explain to them how Washington works in that case,” the source said. “I get that strategically [there could be certain things Democrats could gain], but I see no way Pelosi greenlights that, especially given that it’s McCarthy and what she thinks of him. They’ve got a circular firing squad going on right now — no need for us to interrupt them.”

“I find that HIGHLY unlikely,” another member texted. “But stranger things have happened, I guess.”

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