There are four leaders of their parties in Congress: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). When the 118th Congress commences on Jan. 3, 2023, you can be certain that Schumer will still be on this list. The others? For them, the future is at least a little bit hazy.
Let's start with the least hazy of the three, which is McConnell. The Kentucky Senator is getting up there in years, is not beloved by some members of his conference and he clearly made at least a few tactical errors in allocating funds this election cycle (e.g., less money to Ohio, more money to Nevada). Further, when a party suffers through a disappointing election cycle, there's always talk that heads need to roll. And so, several prominent senators—Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rick Scott (R-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), etc.—and several prominent conservatives, including Mark Meadows and Ginni Thomas, are demanding that the leadership vote for the next sitting of the U.S. Senate be delayed until after the Georgia runoff.
We don't believe that McConnell is actually in danger, at least not right now. The leadership elections are supposed to be on Wednesday, and the Minority Leader is no fool—he knows that holding off will just give his opponents time to try to find a viable challenger. So, he's been rallying his allies. And even if there is a delay, who exactly is going to replace him? Rick Scott was planning a challenge, but Rick Scott has long been delusional about how popular Rick Scott is. And now, having led the NRSC to a disastrous showing, even he knows he's got no hope of unseating McConnell. You can't beat someone with no one, and the anti-McConnell forces just don't have a candidate who can get 25 Republican senators.
Moving on, there is a bit more haze surrounding the future of Pelosi. She's not likely to be Speaker after Jan. 3 (see above), but she might remain as leader of the House Democrats. Or she might not. After all, she's up there in years, she's dealing the trauma of her husband having been attacked, and she made a soft promise to step aside after this term and let some of the young(er) whippersnappers move up the ranks.
That said, there are arguments for her remaining in place. It's not as fun to be a part of leadership when your party is in the minority, and the ambitious young(er) whippersnappers might want to wait until the Democrats retake the House (very possible in 2024). Further, if it's a narrowly divided House, Pelosi's cat-herding skills could be badly needed. Or, for that matter, her poking-Kevin-McCarthy-in-the-eye skills. And she might not want to give the mad hammerer what he wants by ending her political career. Pelosi is playing her cards close to the vest, though it may be instructive that Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) threw his support behind Pelosi yesterday. He's a progressive and is also one of the upwardly ambitious members of the Democratic caucus. So, if he's happy to have Pelosi back, that might a clue as to how other key Democrats are leaning. Recall that to be elected Speaker takes 218 votes, but to be elected as a party leader will only require 110 or so.
And then there is McCarthy. He's been looking in the mirror for 2+ years and seeing a Speaker of the House. So, he is desperate for this promotion, and has been whipping his conference in order to get them to line up behind him. But he's not going to get Democratic votes, and so he has to keep virtually all Republicans on board. Thus far, that is not looking promising. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who's a giant windbag, but who is nonetheless dialed in when it comes to the Whackadoodle Caucus, declared yesterday that "there is a critical mass of people" who don't want McCarthy as speaker. Since "a critical mass" is going to end up being something like "three or more Republican representatives," that's very plausible.
We think that McCarthy is in some actual danger here. There's little chance that the 170 or so non-MAGAmaniac Republican House members agree to choose one of the nutters, like Jim Jordan (R-OH) or Andy Biggs (R-AZ), for Speaker (and Biggs has already announced a challenge, by the way). But it's entirely plausible that the Whackadoodle Caucus would be willing to just dig its heels in and render the House unable to function. Remember, for them, it's a good thing when the government does nothing. It's also entirely plausible that they would consider taking down McCarthy to be enough of a victory, and would agree to some non-McCarthy compromise candidate, like Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).
And that is the recap of today's episode of As the Congress Turns. (Z)