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McConnell vs. McCarthy: It's Not Even Close

If Kevin McCarthy thinks being House Speaker will make Mitch McConnell follow his lead, he is crazier than his House GOP caucus.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Published:December 22, 2022

By Rich Galen

Last week, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy – who is struggling for his political life like a swimmer caught in an Atlantic Ocean rip tide – threatened Republican members of the Senate who voted in favor of the omnibus spending bill. He said, in effect, when Republicans take control of the House in January, they will make certain those Senators’ legislative priorities are pushed to the bottom of the stack.

Senate Republicans were not intimidated, and the procedural vote to proceed passed easily.

Some years ago, I was having lunch with a former member of the U.S. House, and the discussion drifted toward this business of bi-cameral equity. He started recounting a time when he needed to discuss an issue with one of his state’s U.S. Senators, so “I went over to the Senate side to meet with his chief of staff.”

I stopped him and said, “You know, that has never happened in reverse. A Senator has never, ever walked to the House side to meet with a Representative’s chief of staff.”
We had a good laugh about it, but it was true.

Another example:

When Newt Gingrich was Speaker, I worked out of the Republican National Committee building just off the Capitol compound. One day I was walking across the plaza and a Capitol Police officer stopped me and said I had to walk in the approved crosswalks.

When I got to the Speaker’s suite, I asked Newt when (and why) this new “walk to the rule” business had been implemented. He asked me what I was talking about, and I told him about the cop and the crosswalk.

He called out to his assistant to get the Sergeant-at-Arms on the phone and was told that a pedestrian had been clipped, but not injured, by a car walking across the Senate side of the Capitol plaza and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott had ordered the crosswalk rules be enforced. Even on the House side.

Newt would have none of it and ordered the Capitol Police on the House half of the Plaza to revert to the status quo ante and allow people to cut across the plaza at will. Not only that, but he suggested that I reverse my trek, walk back across the plaza, and report whether his order had been implemented.

It had been.

The point is that Senators believe the only reason the House exists is for joint sessions when the Senate chamber isn’t large enough to handle the crowd. The notion of a member of the House – even the chair of a powerful committee – threatening even a junior Senator with retaliation is laughable.

The crosswalk story, which is true, indicates how jealously each side protects its prerogatives – even when they are controlled by the same party, which, in 2023, will not be the case.

Kevin McCarthy might be elected Speaker on January 3, but his majority will be slim. And, if he thinks his being Speaker will make Republican Senators come to heel, he will be disappointed. Again.