Denying Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speakership is not advancing the Make America Great Again agenda popularized by former President Donald Trump, according to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“They would like to pretend it is,” Gingrich, a contributor to The Epoch Times, said in an interview.
McCarthy has failed to garner enough support to be the speaker after 13 consecutive votes from his 222-seat majority, making it the longest fight since before the Civil War. Most of the 20 hardline Republicans who consistently opposed his candidacy belong to the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus and were endorsed by Trump during the midterms last November.
But even Trump’s backing—appealing to the rebels to “close the deal” and not “turn a great triumph into a giant & embarrassing defeat”—failed to swing them this time around.
Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a staunch Trump ally, has said that he thinks “President Trump is wrong to the extent that he supports Kevin McCarthy,” a sentiment that was shared by lawmakers such as Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who suggested on Wednesday that Trump should tell McCarthy to withdraw his bid.
“I love President Trump, I defended him a great deal in Congress, but HR wasn’t always his strong suit,” Gaetz said in an appearance on Fox News, adding that “President Trump got us folks like Jeff Sessions, and Bill Barr, and Jim Mattis, and Mark Esper—people who didn’t always advance ‘America First’ policies.”
“Notice that when Trump endorsed McCarthy, they just disowned Trump,” said Gingrich. “Now, if you’re more Trump than Trump, so hard to know how to deal with you.“
Some of McCarthy’s loudest critics have for weeks been calling for a shakeup in their party after a midterm election that saw Republicans winning a far slimmer-than-expected majority.
“The American people want change in Washington,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), who has voted against McCarthy, told NTD, sister outlet of The Epoch Times, on Jan. 4. He described McCarthy as “part of the problem” and “not part of the solution.”
While Gingrich sees genuine policy disagreements in what some of the dissidents raised, he argued that “blocking the Congress and locking everything down” is not the solution.
“I think the challenge for them is, even if they use this temporary moment of power to leverage their goals, how do you then get a pass?” he asked, noting that McCarthy has committed to a “broad, solid conservative approach” in the Commitment to America agenda and conceded to dissenters’ demands for more representation in the House.
He sees no credible alternative to McCarthy, who he credited for helping Republicans gain seats in both 2020 and 2022.
“He’s building a broader, more ethnically inclusive party. He’s consciously going out and recruiting women, and minorities. And that’s healthy for America,” he said.
Neither does Gingrich believe that another Republican, whether it be Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana or others, can lock up votes to lead the House.
“I don’t see anybody else who could get at least 50 or 75 members who are totally permanently committed to McCarthy,” he said. “He’s consistently got 90% of the Republicans voting on the floor. Nobody else is going to be able to hold that together.”
“Now, instead of having 20 rebels, you’re gonna have 75 rebels,” he added.
McCarthy’s team has been in intensive backroom negotiation to close a deal with the populist conservatives who want new leadership in Congress.
In a breakthrough on Friday, 14 of the Republicans who voted for other candidates on previous days flipped to McCarthy’s side, giving him a total of 214 votes, the first time he was ahead of Democrat Hakeem Jeffries. To win, he would need 218 votes or a majority of the members voting.
Among the holdouts, a few such as Gaetz will likely vote “no” under any circumstances, but for others, the solution for McCarthy is to “calmly grind it down.”
“Keep talking gradually, inch by inch, meet people’s concerns, and they’ll eventually get there.”
Part of the struggle stems from the midterm flop, which left McCarthy with a four-vote margin to maneuver with. But Gingrich was still hopeful.
“Denny Hastert had a five-vote margin, and ended up being the longest-serving Republican Speaker in history,” he said, pointing to the Republican lawmaker who succeeded him to serve as 51st House Speaker from 1999 to 2007.
Chaotic it may be, Gingrich sees an upside to the House Speaker battle. “This is what freedom is all about,” he said, because in Russia or China, even chaos would be a luxury.