“We got our asses kicked. It’s as simple as that,” the senator said. John Kennedy (R-La.). “I feel like we got screwed. It’s a Louisiana word for “fucked up.” And we got our asses kicked. This is how my people at home see it.
As the GOP heads into the midterms, McCarthy and McConnell operate in different galaxies. As the House GOP leader navigates a tricky path as he tries to take the president’s gavel next year, voting against all those big bipartisan deals to avoid losing any edge with conservatives in his conference, the leader of the Senate minority has offered surprising support for much of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
The dynamic could pose serious challenges, given that the two men hope to lead a Republican Congress together next year. representing Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) simply said that all Senate Republicans working with Democrats on Biden-backed legislation are “wrong.” I wish they didn’t.
Although he didn’t criticize McConnell directly, Jordan praised McCarthy for being “on the side of the American people” and claimed that voters hate recent bipartisan Senate legislation: “Look at all the pushback.
But across the Capitol, GOP senators have their own concerns about McCarthy’s approach. Some worry that he reflexively rejects good bills — ones that help the GOP fight the push by Democrats to portray it as obstructionist.
“I wish [McCarthy] would further examine some of the issues that we met on, understanding that they might want to make changes,” the senator said. Shelley MooreCapito (RW.Va.), who has backed much of the Senate’s bipartisan agenda. “Just be unilaterally against? I prefer to get things done, in other words.
Democrats stay out of it. Asked if he outwitted Senate Majority Leader McConnell chuck schumer retorted: “We are just doing what we have to do.” And if the Democrats lose control of Congress, they will likely lose much of their leverage to divide the two GOP leaders next year.
That’s not to say that McCarthy and McConnell are necessarily at odds. Continuing a tradition among Republican leaders in Congress, they meet and speak frequently, about every two weeks. They stop going to each other’s offices and occasionally talk to each other on the phone. In their final conversation, McCarthy recalled warning McConnell “to stop introducing” any bills involving more mandatory spending, an issue he has also raised privately with his own members on other pieces of legislation.
After news of a Schumer-Manchin deal broke on Wednesday, McCarthy opted to oppose the manufacturing bill that McConnell had backed a day earlier and vowed Thursday to be “the first no to the board.” “. But despite these efforts by the House GOP to encourage a no, 24 Republicans still voted yes.
McConnell responded diplomatically to the shadow of the other chamber. He described his relationship with McCarthy as “awesome” and said: “No one is [pulling] harder than me for him to win back the House so we can stop the Biden administration’s liberal agenda.
Yet the GOP leader’s threat to the Senate to derail a version of microchip legislation if Democrats try to pass a party-line spending, tax and health care bill — followed of his vote for that same microchip bill hours before Democrats relaunched their deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) — caused a big stir in the congressional GOP.
Asked if Democrats tricked him into helping them on the microchip bill as they secretly finalize legislation he hates, McConnell said “what they product is an absolute monstrosity, and we are going to be very aggressive in opposing it.”
Other Republicans say the Schumer-Manchin deal would not have changed their vote on the microchip bill. If he had known that the Senate Democrats had reached an agreement with Manchin to finalize their program, the senator. Thomas Tillis (RN.C.) said he would still have voted for the manufacturing measure, citing “strategic reasons” of national security.
A significant factor in the divergent paths of leaders: the differing attitudes of their own base. McCarthy missed a chance to become a speaker in 2015 after being pushed back by his right flank and taking heat for noticing that GOP investigations in Benghazi had harmed Hillary Clinton politically.
He’s not taking any chances this time around — to help keep conservatives on his side, McCarthy was quick to mend fences with Trump after the Jan. 6 attack. He also opposed the codification of same-sex marriage; McConnell’s has declined to disclose its position so far.
And whatever voters may think of McCarthy’s “no” votes, Republicans say it helps him inside the conference.
“Kevin has a good feel for that stuff…He was a bit ahead of the chips on that. So I think he was steering the House conference in the right direction,” Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R- Okla.).
Meanwhile, McConnell hasn’t spoken to the former president since December 2020. He’s made no secret that he thinks the party needs to let go of Trump’s stolen election lies. And the trickier Senate map he faces this fall makes courting swing voters more important to his members — which is part of why he’s joined Biden-backed bills on infrastructure, gun safety fire and electronic chips.
Asked about the divergence among GOP leaders, one Republican senator put it bluntly: “It’s all about the leadership race.” McConnell has yet to win opposition in his GOP leadership races, though he may face it next year as some Republican Senate candidates pledge not to support him.
As for McConnell’s support for key elements of Biden’s legislative agenda, Senator. Kevin Cramer (RN.D.) described it in part as “brand math” to help the GOP stave off Democratic attacks on the GOP as the party of stalemate.
Despite McConnell and McCarthy’s recent splits over policy, Kentucky Rep. james comer, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said the two GOP leaders expressed “mutual respect” for each other in private conversations with him. But he admitted they face different dynamics in their respective chambers.
House Republicans still feel more immediate pressure from voters with elections every two years, with primaries tending to be the biggest threat. GOP senators represent entire states for six-year terms, giving them very different electoral coalitions and calculations.
“The Senate is focused on trying to reach 60 [votes], which means they need to get support from Democrats. And a lot of our guys are just focused on what the perfect bill would look like,” Comer said in an interview. “McCarthy is in a tough spot just because the dynamic is different.”
Fellow Kentucky GOP Rep. Andy Barre argued that McConnell’s positions are driven by a single goal: winning back a majority. Even as conservatives have mulled over each of the Biden-backed bills that McConnell has blessed, many Republican aides believe those decisions have removed potentially damaging campaign issues from the Senate races they need to win this fall.
“His job is to win the majority. His job is to become the Senate Majority Leader,” Barr said in an interview. “He plays the long game a lot…and he plays chess, not checkers.”