New US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters in Statuary Hall after becoming Speaker of the US House of Representatives late on the night of the 15th round of voting in the fourth session of the 118th Congress in the US Capitol Washington, USA, January 7, 2023.
Jon Cherry | Reuters
After a chaotic week in the US House of Representatives over Kevin McCarthy’s candidacy as speaker, Republican officials said Sunday they weren’t worried he’d given up too much to secure the gavel.
After 14 failed votes since Tuesday, the California Republican overcame opposition after making extraordinary concessions to a small bloc of far-right holdouts who refused to back his bid as speaker.
Republican Rep. Scott Perry, who was among the most outspoken opponents of McCarthy’s speaker bid, cast his vote for McCarthy on the 12th ballot. He said Sunday that the concessions made by McCarthy would act as a mechanism to get things done and control issues like the debt limit.
“This is never about Kevin McCarthy. It’s about power for the American people,” Perry told ABC’s This Week. “And with all due respect, Nancy Pelosi ran Congress like a prison camp with no accountability.”
Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., said Sunday he’s not worried Kevin McCarthy conceded too much to get the speakership. He said he understands why Americans are frustrated at how long it’s taken to elect a speaker, but that a healthy democracy requires debate.
“The process that we’ve been through this week has been pretty healthy to sort out all these issues now,” he told ABC’s This Week.
In his first speech, McCarthy laid out an ambitious plan when addressing the 118th session of Congress early Saturday morning, saying he wanted to “take control and create some balance” for President Joe Biden’s policies.
He said the first legislation he plans to tackle will remove funding from more than 87,000 new IRS agents. He highlighted immigration reform as a top priority and said the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will hold some of its first hearings of the year on the southern border.
MP Dan Bishop, RN.C., said he thought McCarthy was “an extraordinarily talented leader” and was confident a lot of work would be done while he was speaker.
He told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that the speaker poll wasn’t a “dysfunctional mess” as many people were claiming. It gave Republicans a chance to scrutinize each other.
“It was about setting the key equations for the running of this Congress and we’ve achieved a tremendous amount,” he said.
Democratic officials were less optimistic.
Massachusetts Democrat Katherine Clark told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that she thinks House Republicans are trying to distract Americans from their legislative agenda.
“When they talk about the process, it’s a smokescreen,” she said.
But House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said if McCarthy was willing to try and find common ground, he would find willing partners among House Democrats.
“Of course we will have strong disagreements at times, but we can agree to disagree without being uncomfortable,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.