The Reporter (Vacaville)

McCarthy's House: Famous friends and hard realities

- By Lisa Mascaro

WASHINGTON >> In an almost forgotten slice of marbled real estate at the Capitol, the Kevin McCarthy era is taking shape in Congress.

It was here that the new House speaker was chatting last week with Donald Trump Jr. on the former president's son's podcast, their laughter spilling into the halls from behind closed doors. And it was in this modest outpost, with its grand vistas of the National Mall and easy proximity to the action on House floor, that the Republican leader from California had met with his lieutenant­s brokering deals in the grueling race to become speaker.

Away from the glare of the speaker's official office, McCarthy is conducting some of the most exhilarati­ng but also difficult business of leadership. Yet McCarthy is also confrontin­g the limits of his slim hold on power as the promises of a new style of running the House run into the hard realities of governing.

This past week, an immigratio­n bill that was supposed to be easy work for a Republican Party intent on sealing the U.S. border with Mexico was shelved for quick action, kicked back to committees for changes.

A Republican proposal for a 23% national sales tax that would take the place of income taxes rose and quickly fell from favor, turned into a punchline for President Joe Biden's attacks on extreme elements in the GOP.

McCarthy booted two prominent Democrats, Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell of California, from the House Intelligen­ce Committee, but his promise to oust Rep. Ilhan Omar, DMinn., from the House Foreign Affairs Committee ran into resistance from a couple of Republican­s.

“You watch,” McCarthy told The Associated Press as breezed through the halls, signaling he had the votes in hand to remove the Somali-born Omar.

Three weeks into the new Republican majority, the risks of McCarthy's leadership style are clearly taking hold: In the interest of opening up the legislativ­e process, with more seats at the table for farright lawmakers, the GOP agenda will be subjected to prolonged debates and delays — and the chance that nothing gets done at all.

McCarthy appeared upbeat as he exited the Trump podcast, brushing off the scrapes over the immigratio­n bill and others as part of the process with his bottom-up way of governing.

“I don't view that as at risk,” McCarthy said.

“Say you passed the bill early here, but it just it's not perfect,” he said. “I want to get it right.”

So far, Republican­s have been able to get about 10 pieces of legislatio­n through the House, including one abortion-related measure that was a party priority. Some other bills and resolution­s had sweeping bipartisan backing, largely symbolic actions including one to commend Iranian human rights protesters.

But several of the top proposals the Republican­s lined up for quick passage as part of their rules package have stalled out amid difference­s between the hard-right Freedom Caucus and pragmatic conservati­ves. As McCarthy celebrated his birthday with a visit from Elon Musk at the Capitol, lawmakers were grinding through a twoday debate on a routine oiland-gas leasing bill.

“At some point in time, they have to belly up to the bar, make a decision, and go,” said Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the seasoned Democratic leader and former House whip.

As part of the opening up the House process, lawmakers on Thursday dove into a freewheeli­ng debate over an oil and gas leasing bill that would limit the president's ability to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, as Biden did during soaring fuel prices, without first developing an Energy Department plan to increase resource production on federal lands.

One of the first amendments came from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right Georgia Republican who used her precious few minutes of debate to also mention she was the first in Congress to file legislatio­n calling for Biden's impeachmen­t.

“The people's House has been broken for too long,” she said, extolling the new system.

But House Republican­s acknowledg­e some grumblings from their constituen­ts back home at the slow start to their new majority. The prolonged speaker's race consumed the first week of the new Congress as McCarthy endured 15 votes before finally seizing the gavel.

Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, said he heard from a caller to his office demanding to know why House Republican­s hadn't yet launched investigat­ions into Biden's son Hunter.

“Everybody gets so emotional,” Nehls said.

“Let's just breathe a little bit. Take a step back,” he said. “Let's develop the situation and see what comes out of these committees.”

 ?? JOSE LUIS MAGANA — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE ?? House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks during a news conference in Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 12.
JOSE LUIS MAGANA — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks during a news conference in Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 12.

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