GOP deputy whip is on po­lit­i­cal fast track

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY KARA ROW­LAND

Ris­ing star, up-and-comer — call him what you will — Rep. Kevin McCarthy is some­one to watch.

Af­ter a mere nine months as a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Mr. McCarthy was elected House Repub­li­can leader in Cal­i­for­nia. Now, two months into his sec­ond con­gres­sional term, he’s work­ing in the House’s Repub­li­can lead­er­ship as chief deputy whip.

The post has been a ca­reer spring­board for sev­eral high-pro­file House Repub­li­cans. For­mer Illi­nois Rep. Den­nis Hastert was chief deputy whip be­fore he be­came speaker of the House, and both cur­rent Mi­nor­ity Whip Eric Can­tor and Rep. Roy Blunt used it as a step­ping­stone to be­come whip.

The 44-year-old Mr. McCarthy also helped found the Repub­li­can Young Guns along with Mr. Can­tor and Wis­con­sin Rep. Paul Ryan in an ef­fort to sharpen Repub­li­cans’ mes­sage and re­cruit “fresh­think­ing” candidates to run for the House. The Young Guns were among the first to ar­gue that Repub­li­cans had de­faulted into vot­ing against Democrats without of­fer­ing al­ter­na­tives of their own.

“I re­mem­ber think­ing we can’t just sit back and play de­fense; if we re­ally want to find so­lu­tions, we need to chal­lenge peo­ple on their ideas,” Mr. McCarthy says. A Weekly Stan­dard cover fea­tur­ing the trio is on the wall above his desk. “Paul Ryan’s the bril­liant pol­icy guy, Eric’s just the well­rounded per­son who runs the floor, and they throw me in as the strate­gist.”

In­deed, the Bak­ers­field, Calif., na­tive reads po­lit­i­cal al­manacs on flights to and from Cal­i­for­nia to learn about his col­leagues’ dis­tricts.

“My idea is know­ing some­body’s district and know­ing some­body will help me in pass­ing leg­is­la­tion be­cause, you know, maybe this is good for their district, too,” he says.

Mr. Ryan cred­its Mr. McCarthy’s rise to his “high-en­ergy” per­son­al­ity as well as train­ing by his men­tor, for­mer Rep. Bill Thomas, whom he re­placed in of­fice.

“His rise in three short years is noth­ing short of phe­nom­e­nal, but not sur­pris­ing,” Mr. Ryan says of his friend. “Once you get to know him, you can see why. He’s a very gifted per­son.”

Asked what he en­joys about pol­i­cy­mak­ing, Mr. McCarthy ea­gerly re­calls his days in the state Leg­is­la­ture.

“I love pol­icy,” he says, paus­ing for em­pha­sis. “Hav­ing been leader in Cal­i­for­nia, you worked in what’s called the ‘big five’ on ma­jor is­sues — bud­get, work­ers’ comp and oth­ers — where the four leaders plus the gov­er­nor get to­gether to ham­mer out leg­is­la­tion. It forced you to en­gage.”

That sys­tem of bi­par­ti­san give­and-take has been ab­sent in Congress, where House Repub­li­cans unan­i­mously panned Pres­i­dent Obama’s stim­u­lus plan af­ter Democrats shut them out of the writ­ing process for the $787 bil­lion bill. Mr. McCarthy worked along­side Mr. Can­tor and Mi­nor­ity Leader John Boehner to ed­u­cate mem­bers about the leg­is­la­tion and in the pub­lic ef­fort to brand it in­ef­fec­tive.

“I don’t think any­one thought, es­pe­cially on the first one, we’d get zero,” he says. “The bill was so bad it moved peo­ple that way; it wasn’t like we had to go break arms.”

Of course, Mr. McCarthy is quick to ac­knowl­edge that Repub­li­cans have a chal­lenge in op­pos­ing leg­is­la­tion sup­ported by Mr. Obama.

“This pres­i­dent’s a pop­u­lar pres­i­dent, he’s a great com­mu­ni­ca­tor,” he says. “So our work is cut out for us, but I think first and fore­most, the tone with which we carry our­selves will de­ter­mine whether peo­ple lis­ten to us or at least give us the op­por­tu­nity to hear our ideas.”

Like other House Repub­li­cans, he is care­ful to sep­a­rate Mr. Obama from con­gres­sional Democrats, who Mr. McCarthy says are “deny­ing him his hon­ey­moon.”

“This pres­i­dent comes in, and you see Repub­li­cans say we want to work with him. The prob­lem is, his own party came in deny­ing him the abil­ity of bi­par­ti­san­ship, which is a detri­ment to Pres­i­dent Obama,” he says. “The Congress it­self un­der Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi does not work the way the struc­ture says. In my gen­er­a­tion, we al­ways had on Satur­day morn­ing the old ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ — ‘I’m just a bill on Capi­tol Hill, I’m stuck in com­mit­tee where I sit here and wait’ — that doesn’t hap­pen here. Bills don’t go through com­mit­tee.”

House Repub­li­cans pro­posed their own al­ter­na­tive to the Democrats’ bill that they said would cre­ate twice the jobs at half the cost, and the en­tire con­fer­ence met with the pres­i­dent in what Mr. McCarthy and oth­ers de­scribed as a pro­duc­tive dis­cus- sion about pol­icy. But in the end, he says, “pol­i­tics got in the way.”

“There was a fun­da­men­tal break where [the pres­i­dent] then de­cided this has be­come a po­lit­i­cal bat­tle,” he says, cit­ing Mr. Obama’s speech to Democrats in Wil­liams­burg, where he blasted crit­ics of the bill. “Part of our con­cern was we wanted to cre­ate real jobs that last, so you want it to be stim­u­lus, you want it to be tar­geted. But he had leg­is­la­tion that he just now had to get the bill through to make it a victory.”

With Mr. Obama’s bud­get and other spending pro­pos­als sure to draw Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion com­ing down the pike, Repub­li­can leaders are do­ing what they can to avoid be­ing la­beled as the “party of no.”

“We can­not just sit there and say ‘no,’ we have got to have the so­lu­tions to move us for­ward. There are some pos­i­tives to be­ing in the mi­nor­ity — you’re more ef­fi­cient with less; it forces us to think,” he says. “We’re go­ing to have to break through the me­dia in dif­fer­ent ways and com­mu­ni­cate in dif­fer­ent ways.”

For ex­am­ple, he cites con­tin­u­ing-ed­u­ca­tion ef­forts such as giv­ing each per­son on the whip team an iPod to hear pod­casts on leg­is­la­tion from rank­ing mem­bers or to lis­ten to rec­om­mended book read­ings. Mr. McCarthy also en­cour­ages his col­leagues to use the so­cial net­work­ing site Twit­ter to in­ter­act with con­stituents and ex­plain their votes on bills such as the stim­u­lus plan.

Mr. McCarthy, a reg­u­lar on the site, re­cently high­lighted Mr. Ryan’s use of hair gel in a post. Later asked about the quip, the dark-haired Mr. Ryan said of his friend: “His hair is very, very gray.”

MICHAEL CON­NOR/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

Rep. Kevin McCar thy, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, sees some pos­i­tive as­pects to be­ing in the mi­nor­ity par ty, such as the need to be more fo­cused on the leg­isla­tive process. He en­cour­ages his col­leagues to use the so­cial net­work­ing site Twit­ter to in­ter­act with con­stituents and ex­plain their votes on bills.

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