“There’s Nothing But Chaos In The Republican Ranks”: GOP Leader Shocks Colleagues, Withdraws From Speaker’s Race
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has abruptly pulled out of the race for Speaker of the House on the same day that he was widely expected to be nominated for the position.
The nominating contest in the GOP conference set for Thursday afternoon in the House has been postponed.
There is a degree of irony to all of this: Benghazi didn’t bring down Hillary Clinton, but it did prevent Kevin McCarthy from becoming Speaker.
The California Republican faced two challengers for his party’s Speaker nomination, but by all appearances, he had the support he needed to go to the floor as his party’s official choice. As recently as last night, McCarthy’s bid was on track to move forward.
The problem was the looming floor vote on Oct. 29 – the opposition to his promotion from the far-right was significant and he faced a real challenge in pulling together 218 GOP votes.
Even if he prevailed, McCarthy would have immediately taken the gavel and become an even weaker Speaker than Boehner.
A week ago, the landscape seemed relatively clear. The GOP establishment had rallied behind McCarthy, and though there were some questions about the other top posts, we’d have a sense of the new Republican leadership team by this afternoon.
Now, however, there’s nothing but chaos in the Republican ranks. It’s reminiscent of late 1998, when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) resigned in disgrace, and his successor, Speaker-designate Bob Livingston (R-La.), also had to resign in disgrace after a sex scandal came to light.
The difference now is, the only scandal is the radicalization of Republican politics.
So what happens now? All of the leadership elections that had been scheduled for today have been postponed. The date of the new elections is unclear. McCarthy reportedly intends to stay in Congress – indeed, he apparently wants to keep his Majority Leader position – though it seems everything is unsettled right now.
The party’s establishment will have to rally behind a new standard bearer, though no one has any idea who that might be. All eyes will, of course, quickly turn to Paul Ryan, but the far-right Wisconsin congressman reiterated again this morning that he does not want to be Speaker of the House.
Because House rules allow members to elect anyone for Speaker – including those who are not current lawmakers – don’t be too surprised if GOP officials start looking to potential leaders outside of Capitol Hill.
What’s more, let’s not discount the possibility that John Boehner himself may stick around, indefinitely, while the chaos continues, House Republicans turn on each other, the chamber unravels, and Congress struggles mightily to find a suitable leader.
Finally, I heard one rumor a short while ago, which is admittedly hard to believe, about some less-conservative Republicans turning to Democrats to try to elect a “coalition-style Speaker,” in a scheme that would disempower the chamber right-wing extremists.
It’s far-fetched, to be sure, but after the last 13 days, it’s now best to expect the unexpected.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 8, 2015
“Cheney For Speaker”: Let Lord Vader’s Dark Force Make A Dent In Washington’s GOP Leadership Black Hole?
Watching Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy – the current favorite to replace Speaker John Boehner – interviewed by Fox News’ Sean Hannity this week left my heart and mind empty. Deflated. Much like Washington itself, with its persistent leadership vacuum.
As The Onion rightly pointed out this week with the headline “Boehner Resignation Leaves Massive Leadership Vacuum in Congress Intact,” last week’s announcement by the speaker has served mostly to highlight what we all knew, deep down: Our capital city is in an ongoing leadership crisis. Russia telling the U.S. to get out of the way so that it can drop bombs in Syria this week underscores how dangerous this is.
Filling the Washington leadership vacuum is a very, very tall order. It’s why the Republican presidential contest is such big news – it’s terribly important that our next president be exceptional.
A new House speaker probably can’t come close to filling this urgent leadership vacancy, but it would be nice to come up with a decent stopgap until we have a new president (preferably one who commands respect across the country and around the globe).
So here’s the problem with McCarthy and his attempt to step into this vacuum. He seems like a really nice guy. A guy who listens to all sides. A guy who will try to make sure everyone gets at least a little bit of what they want. A guy who might shed a tear over a touching moment – I think I just figured out why McCarthy leaves me hopeless.
With all due respect to nice guys everywhere (and, to be sure, they need more respect and credit in this world), I must implore House Republicans: Please. Not another one. No more Mr. Nice Guys with Gavels. At this moment in our history, that approach just isn’t working.
Here’s what I have in mind: Instead of another man with a big, mushy heart, how about a man whose critics wonder whether he has a heart at all? Someone who commands respect and fear, is brilliant and decisive, who has literally lived without a pulse and now makes due with a donated heart.
I am, of course, referring to Dick Cheney. And, yes, I am suggesting he be the next Speaker of the House.
The Constitution does not require the House speaker to be an elected House representative (which is why some have already suggested Newt Gingrich return – not a bad idea, but I think Cheney would be even better).
Cheney was in the House for 10 years (1979-1989) and served in leadership during that time. He’s been secretary of defense as well as vice president, so whether you agree or disagree with his foreign policy positions, you can’t deny that he knows the subject matter awfully well. And wouldn’t it be nice to have a leader in Congress who’s the smartest guy in the room on foreign policy but isn’t running for president?
There’s something in this for everyone, seriously. Even if you don’t like the Tea Party caucus – don’t you just know that they will be respectfully scared of Cheney? I can already hear them saying, “Yes, sir.” Cheney is the type mere mortals reference as “sir.”
If the ultra liberals get out of line, well, you know what Dick Cheney will say. (Just ask Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.)
And if you want business to get done in Washington, rest assured Cheney won’t screw around with shutdowns or debt ceilings. He’s a Washington workhorse. He can run things.
On the other hand, if you sympathize with the “we’re not gonna take it anymore” government-shrinking sentiments of the Tea Party, you can be confident that the government won’t be growing on Dick Cheney’s watch, unless it involves defeating some international bad guys.
House GOP: It is time. Admit you have no leader and bring in a ringer – someone who suffers no fools. Someone who is smarter, more decisive, more experienced than all of you. Let Lord Vader’s dark force make a dent in Washington’s leadership black hole.
By: Jean Card, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, October 1, 2015
“Who Wants The Worst Job In Washington?”: Who In Their Right Mind Would Actually Volunteer For The Job Boehner Is Giving Up?
House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) communications director told Time magazine yesterday, “He’s not going anywhere. If there’s a small crew of members who think that he’s just going to pick up and resign in the middle of his term, they are going to be sadly mistaken.”
That was literally yesterday afternoon, reinforcing the fact that this morning’s news was, to put it mildly, unexpected.
There are all kinds of questions surrounding this story, but near the top of the list is a pretty straightforward inquiry: who in their right mind would actually volunteer for the job Boehner is giving up?
Not only is it practically impossible to lead the current crop of House Republicans, but there’s also the inconvenient fact that recent GOP Speakers tend to meet unwelcome fates: Newt Gingrich resigned in disgrace; Bob Livingstone resigned in disgrace; Dennis Hastert is under criminal indictment; and John Boehner is quitting mid-term.
Already today, we know that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has withdrawn from consideration. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who tried to oust Boehner, said he’s not running, either. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was going to be Speaker, but his Republican constituents abandoned him in a primary last year.
And that apparently leaves his successor, current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Politico reported today:
[McCarthy] is widely expected to serve as the next speaker. But there is serious unrest in the House Republican ranks, as a small clutch of conservatives have continuously clashed with establishment Republicans. It takes 218 votes on the House floor to win the speakership, and many GOP insiders believe that McCarthy is the only person who could cobble together a coalition to win. […]
Boehner allies appear to be rallying around McCarthy for speaker already, providing him a hefty base for the internal House Republican Conference election, and a speaker vote on the House floor.
It would have been difficult to imagine such circumstances up until very recently.
Remember, when McCarthy was elevated to the #2 slot in the House Republican leadership, he’d only been in Congress for seven years – making him easily the least experienced Majority Leader in American history. By one count, during his brief tenure, McCarthy sponsored only three bills, and only two of them actually passed.
One of them renamed a post office.
The other renamed a flight research center.
Now he’s going to be Speaker of the House and second in the line of presidential succession?
In June 2014, I wrote that with Boehner’s future uncertain, McCarthy is “well positioned to lead the House in the not-too-distant future, despite a very thin resume and an extremely brief tenure in Congress.” And 15 months later, here we are.
I noted earlier that there was some scuttlebutt about House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) eyeing the Speaker’s gavel, but that chatter quickly faded and the far-right Louisianan has instead announced his intention to run for Majority Leader – which reinforces the impression that McCarthy is poised for a historic promotion.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 25, 2015
“Why Conservatives Hate John Boehner”: They Wanted Someone To Beat Obama, As Their Presidential Nominees Couldn’t Do
When Marco Rubio announced to the Values Voter Summit on Friday morning that House Speaker John Boehner was resigning, the crowd of social conservatives cheered. The Florida senator and 2016 presidential contender seemed to share the sentiment.
“I’m not here to bash anyone, but the time has come to turn the page,” Rubio said. “It is time to turn the page and allow a new generation of leaders.”
Fellow 2016er Sen. Ted Cruz had a similar shtick. “You want to know how much each of you terrifies Washington?” he asked the crowd of conservative activists. “Yesterday John Boehner was speaker of the House. Y’all come to town and somehow that changes. My only request is, can you come by more often?”
Some of this is self-serving. Both men are younger Republican leaders who have a personal stake in seeing the old guard shuffle off to retirement. And both are competing for a similar slice of conservative primary voters and playing to the same audience.
The fact that Boehner’s impending departure is an applause line at conservative gatherings, however, is reflective of the Republican leadership crisis. Large parts of the base do not trust the party’s leaders, do not believe they have GOP voters’ best interests or conservative principles at heart, and would mourn their leaving office about as much when Barack Obama’s presidency is over.
House speakers aren’t often leaders of inspirational movements. They are usually legislative tacticians and enforcers of party discipline. Boehner is a survivor, having been booted from the leadership team in the 1990s only to claw back to the minority leader and then speaker’s position.
But after the 2010 midterm elections, when Democrats lost the House while keeping the Senate and the presidency, Boehner found himself the ranking Republican in Washington. It’s a role for which he was in many respects ill-suited.
If you compare Boehner’s reign to that of disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, conservatives should consider it an improvement. Hastert, with the help of President George W. Bush, jacked up government spending and presided over a culture of earmarks and corruption. They authorized the Iraq war.
Under Boehner, the House helped deliver sequestration that put the brakes on explosive spending growth. He effectively ended earmarks. His fellow Republicans tried to stop a war in Libya and succeeded in averting one in Syria, though not always with the speaker’s blessing.
Yet conservatives were looking for someone more like Newt Gingrich, albeit with better long-term results. They wanted someone who could communicate conservative principles and fight for the Republican platform. They wanted someone to beat Obama, as their presidential nominees couldn’t do. They wanted someone to stop playing defense and go on offense against ObamaCare and a slew of liberal programs that offended them.
Even Boehner’s conservative accomplishments were not universally beloved by the right. Many hawks detested sequestration’s impact on defense spending, and were willing to trade away the budget caps. The earmarks ban was criticized as too loose by some conservatives, and too detrimental to getting things done on the House floor by some in the Republican establishment.
What Boehner mostly did as House speaker was rescue the more conservative members of his caucus from dire political miscalculations while offering little alternative vision of his own. That was never good enough for conservatives and became increasingly untenable as Boehner began to advance legislation with Democrats and a rump of Republicans.
Can conservatives do better at running the House and governing in general, or can they only function as an opposition party even when they are among the majority? Will they even get the opportunity to replace Boehner, or will he be succeeded by another establishment figure? Can the GOP ever resolve its leadership crisis?
Tea Party leader Mark Meckler crowed, “Boehner is gone, and we are still here.” Now, perhaps, we’ll see to what end.
By: W. James Antler III, The Week, September 25, 2015
“Carly Fiorina Is The New Mitt Romney”: Fiorina Is About To Get Bained, An Assault She May Not Be Able To Withstand
Carly Fiorina has a Mitt Romney problem.
Fiorina, like Romney, is a wealthy former CEO from an affluent Republican family. Like Romney, she entered the Republican presidential contest assuming that her record running a large company would be one of her greatest assets. But she may be about to learn that her opponents have little trouble turning that record into her greatest liability.
Like Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, the private equity firm at which he oversaw the dismantling of numerous companies purchased by Bain, Fiorina’s record at Hewlett-Packard was notable for the number of workers fired on her watch. Romney’s Republican primary opponents, as well as the Obama campaign, attacked Romney’s record at Bain so aggressively that by the end of the 2012 campaign some people were using Bain as a verb: to destroy a wealthy candidate’s public image by attacking their business record.
Fiorina is about to get Bained. And if history is any guide, it’s an assault she may not be able to withstand.
“When you rise as fast as Fiorina has in the last couple weeks, all your opponents, plus the news media, are gonna pay attention to you,” Newt Gingrich, who ran for the Republican nomination in 2012 and acted as one of Romney’s most prolific critics, told me.
“The upside,” he said, “is now you’re more famous. But when you’re more famous, they come after you.”
Fiorina’s opponents have a lot to work with. Like most politicians, she likes to self-mythologize. Born in Texas in 1954, she says she is from “a modest, middle-class family.” She tends to leave out that her father, Joseph Tyree Sneed III, worked at the Justice Department, including as a deputy attorney general, before President Richard Nixon appointed him to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1973.
Fiorina frequently tells of how she rose “from secretary to CEO” in a way that “is only possible in this nation” because it “proves that every one of us has potential.” In fact, she took the secretary job in between dropping out of law school and moving to Italy with her first husband, who last week emerged from obscurity to brand her as cold and calculating. She later went to business school, and after stints at AT&T and Lucent, in 1999 Fiorina became the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the iconic technology company. She was the first woman in American history to lead a Fortune 100 company.
Her time running Hewlett-Packard was highly controversial. Fiorina deflects criticism of her 5½ years at the helm by noting that the company’s revenue doubled during that time. But, as Bloomberg View’s Justin Fox notes, “that was mainly because she made a gigantic and controversial acquisition.” Fiorina acquired Compaq, a computer manufacturer, for $19 billion in 2002—a move largely received by those within (PDF) and observing HP as unwise. Dell Computer’s Michael Dell called it the “dumbest deal of the decade.” By the time Fiorina was pushed out of HP three years after the Compaq deal, and given a $21 million severance package, HP had laid off 30,000 workers.
Four years later, in the midst of the Great Recession, Fiorina ran for a Senate seat from California. Barbara Boxer, her Democratic opponent, used the HP layoffs and Fiorina’s enormous severance to pillory the former CEO. During a September 2010 debate, Boxer asked if voters really “want to elect someone who made her name as a CEO at Hewlett-Packard, laying thousands and thousands of workers off, shipping their jobs overseas, making no sacrifice while she was doing it, taking $100 million. I don’t think we need those Wall Street values right now.”
Fiorina replied that “when you lead a business, whether it’s a nine-person business or 150,000 people, you sometimes have to make the agonizing choice to lose some jobs to save more.”
Later in the debate, a retired Hewlett-Packard employee named Tom Watson was allowed to ask Fiorina a question. “In a keynote speech in 2004, you said, ‘There’s no job that is America’s God-given right anymore.’ Do you still feel that way? What are your plans to create jobs in California?”
Fiorina didn’t answer directly. She said the loss of American jobs was the fault of the federal government for not incentivizing companies the way that China does with tax holidays and help cutting through regulations. In other words, those 30,000 people were laid off because of Washington, not because of Carly Fiorina.
It didn’t end there. The debate’s host noted that Fiorina had suggested teachers be paid in accordance with their performance. Why then, did Fiorina accept a $21,000,000 severance payment when she was fired from HP? Fiorina’s response wasn’t exactly steely. That was, she explained, what the HP board decided she should get paid.
Boxer needled Fiorina further. “My opponent—we know that she shipped jobs overseas, thousands of them,” she said, “we know that she fired workers, tens of thousands of them.”
Fiorina seemed at a loss for how to defend herself. “I think it’s absolutely a shame that Barbara Boxer would use Hewlett-Packard, a treasure of California, one of the great companies in the world, whose employees work very hard and whose shareholders have benefited greatly from both my time as CEO and all the hard work of the employees, that I had the privilege to lead, I think it’s a shame that she would use that company as a political football,” she said.
A few weeks after the debate, Boxer released an ad titled “Outsourcing,” which slammed Fiorina for the HP layoffs, for “tripling her salary,” buying “a million-dollar yacht” (she has two) for herself and “five corporate jets” for HP. Fiorina’s poll numbers immediately plummeted. In the Democratic wipeout year of 2010, Boxer managed to defeat Fiorina by 10 points.
Fiorina knows similar attacks are coming as she makes a run at the presidency. You could almost see the impending sense of doom on her face during Wednesday night’s Republican debate.
“Ms. Fiorina, you were CEO of Hewlett-Packard,” CNN host Jake Tapper said. “Donald Trump says you, quote, ‘ran HP into the ground,’ you laid off tens of thousands of people, you got viciously fired. For voters looking to somebody with private-sector experience to create American jobs, why should they pick you and not Donald Trump?”
Fiorina’s reply felt lived-in, like she had long ago decided on the proper delivery—almost Carlin-esque, fast-paced and melodic—for such a message. She looked as though she had practiced every syllable and plotted out every point at which she would pause to take a breath.
“I led Hewlett-Packard through a very difficult time,” she said, “the worst technology recession in 25 years.” Despite the circumstances, she said, she led the company to success. She rattled off her supposed accomplishments: “We doubled the size of the company, we quadrupled its top-line growth rate, we quadrupled its cash flow, we tripled its rate of innovation.”
Donald Trump looked on, smirking and rolling his eyes with meme-worthy animation.
“Yes, we had to make tough choices,” she said. But, she said, firing thousands of people actually “saved 80,000 jobs,” which led to the growth of “160,000 jobs.” And how dare Trump of all people make such a criticism, Fiorina said, since “you ran up mountains of debt, as well as losses, using other people’s money and you were forced to file for bankruptcy not once, not twice, four times. A record four times. Why should we trust you to manage the finances of this nation any differently than you managed the finances of your casinos?”
Fiorina’s defense of her time at HP was a minor blip in her debate performance, which saw her bash Trump for his recent attack on her looks and open up about losing her stepdaughter to drug addiction.
She received rave reviews from the media and vaulted up in the polls from 3 percent at the beginning of the month to 14 percent in a CNN/ORC poll released Sunday. Fiorina’s rise coincides with the first signs of Trump’s decline. Though still in the lead, Trump fell from 32 percent to 24 percent in the CNN poll.
Fiorina is, understandably, feeling optimistic. Asked if she would like to speak with me for this story, Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager, Sarah Isgur Flores, emailed, “I’m swamped today. But I’m sure it’ll be good without me :)”
As the emerging candidate of the moment, Fiorina should expect the coming Bain-like attacks on her record will intensify perhaps beyond even what she experienced in 2010. In The Gamble, a data-driven analysis of the 2012 election, political scientists John Sides and Lynn Vavreck argue that although “the polls seemed almost random” in the Republican primary, “there was an underlying logic at work.” That logic, according to Sides and Vavreck, can be described as “discovery, scrutiny, and decline.”
When a candidate does something to capture the public’s attention—getting into the race at all, in the case for Trump, or delivering a breakout debate performance, for Fiorina—the “discovery” of the candidate results in an increase in media attention, which in turn results in a surge in the polls. But with increased attention comes increased scrutiny from both the media and primary opponents and the barrage of negative information reliably results in an “irreversible decline in both news coverage and poll numbers.”
Sides told me that “Fiorina is a textbook case of discovery. For months, her candidacy received limited media attention. Then, thanks to Trump’s comments and last week’s debate, she received much more coverage, and her poll numbers responded accordingly.”
Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich all experienced these cycles in 2012. Only Romney survived. Sides and Vavreck write that Romney had the advantage of a well-run organization and fundraising operation, more support from Republican leaders than other candidates, and the good fortune of being “the most popular candidate among the largest factions in the party, which tend not to be the most conservative factions.”
But the anti-Bain attacks, launched by Gingrich and others during the primary, left Romney vulnerable in the general election. There was an incessant drip-drip of negative information about Romney’s immense personal wealth and his time at Bain Capital released by his Republican rivals that enabled Democrats to latch onto the narrative of Mitt-the-jobs-destroyer so easily.
The most memorable of these assaults came from Winning Our Future, an “independent expenditure-only committee” supporting Gingrich’s campaign that distributed When Mitt Romney Came to Town, a 28-minute attack documentary that felt like a cross between an episode of American Greed and a Michael Moore documentary. The movie accused Romney of everything from “stripping American businesses of assets, selling everything to the highest bidder and often killing jobs for big financial rewards” to “contributing to the greatest American job loss since World War II.” Devastatingly, it featured interviews with real people (some of whom had no idea they were being interviewed for an attack ad against Romney) who described in painstaking detail the misery of losing their jobs as a result of Bain Capital’s actions.
“We thought that it was a legitimate question to raise and also that it was something that Barack Obama was going to raise, which of course he did,” Gingrich told The Daily Beast. “I think it’s the same thing as attacking me for my record as speaker,” he said. Which is to say, Gingrich thinks any candidate’s history is fair game.
“Anybody at this point is going to have a record in their career or they wouldn’t have gotten here. So, it’s fair to go after Trump for his business record. It’s fair to go after Carly for hers. It’s fair to go after Jeb for his governor’s record. If you’re gonna run for president you’d better expect that you’re gonna be thoroughly challenged—and you should be! We give presidents of the United States an enormous amount of power and whoever wins that office should be thoroughly tested.”
Asked how he would run against Fiorina were he in this Republican primary, Gingrich said, “I have no idea. I have been so confused by this primary season so far.”
When it came time for the general election, branding Romney as an out-of-touch, car-elevator-riding bully-of-the-working-class proved an easy task for Democrats. All the work had already been done for them by Gingrich & Co.
Will Fiorina ever make it that far? It’s at best a longshot.
She has all of the downside of being a wealthy and controversial former CEO like Romney, but none of the benefit—the establishment support, the fundraising operation, the organization, or the four years as governor of Massachusetts—that insulated him against the “discovery, scrutiny and decline” pinball machine and helped him win the primary.
“She’s smart, Fiorina knows this is coming and she knows exactly what it’s gonna be like, because she’s already lived through it once,” Gingrich said. “My guess is that she must believe that she has a stronger, more convincing answer than she had in the Senate race in 2010.”
It’s true that Fiorina may now be a better prepared and more polished candidate than she was when she last ran for office, but the substance of her answers to questions about HP hasn’t changed much at all.
But to hear Gingrich tell it, when you’re the longshot who is suddenly surging, that doesn’t really matter. “I’m sure it’s more fun to be one of the top two or three candidates and have to defend yourself than to be in the bottom tier and have nobody paying any attention to you,” he told me.
And isn’t that what a presidential campaign is really about?
By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, September 22, 2015