In the days after Eric Cantor’s defeat stunned Washington, talk on the Hill has predictably turned not so much to which professor at Randolph-Macon College will replace him in the House as to who will fill his leadership position within the Republican Party.
Top prospects already are backing away. Jeb Hensarling has announced that he will instead be focusing on his family, his district, and chairing the Financial Services Committee, while the decidedly ambitious Paul Ryan, another favorite for the post, has said he’s just not interested in the position. Funny, that’s exactly what the ruthless pragmatist of House of Cards, Frank Underwood, would say.
People close to Ryan have noted his desire to serve as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. But perhaps more tellingly, he ran as vice president on the Republican ticket in 2012, and were he to appear on the ticket again in 2016, being the party’s designated majority leader might not be the most strategic position to be in.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy has the overwhelming support of the party (though Pete Sessions is still in the running), and were Ryan to challenge him for the position, he’d risk losing the leadership race and alienating members whose good will could prove precious to him down the road. What’s more, as Underwood would surely note, majority leaders make a lot of enemies doing all that horse trading and deal cutting, particularly at a time when the GOP is going through so many transformations and reinventions.
The irony is that when actor Kevin Spacey, who plays Underwood as House majority whip and later as president, was studying up for the role, he shadowed McCarthy on the Hill. McCarthy was “very generous” with him, Spacey later told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, adding, “I don’t envy him the position.”
McCarthy may not have much in common with Underwood’s merciless personality. Indeed, McCarthy is known for his congeniality, and, as he once noted to Business Insider, he and his colleagues “don’t murder animals or members or anything like that.” But it’s also true that if he’s chosen as leader, his rise on Capitol Hill would be unprecedented. Sound familiar?
Slate’s Dave Weigel recently remarked that he’s grown to hate people saying, “It’s just like House of Cards!” whenever anything devious happens. It’s just like politics! And sometimes I agree: Art imitates life. But also, as Oscar Wilde has argued, life imitates art far more.
What We're Following See More »
The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."
"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.
"Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that would limit deportations" under President-elect Donald Trump. Leading the effort are Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also expected to sign on.
Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as his secretary of defense, according to The Washington Post. Mattis retired from active duty just four years ago, so Congress will have "to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law that states secretaries of defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years." The official announcement is likely to come next week.