Washington Correspondent Neil McCabe Breaks Down the Power Dynamics of the United States House and a Fragile Red Wave in 2022
Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee Star National Correspondent Neil McCabe to the newsmakers line who outlined the levers of power in the House of Representatives and gave different scenarios of how strategies are playing out for Pelosi, McCarthy, and Cheney.
Leahy: We are joined now by the great Neil McCabe who is the National and Washington Correspondent for The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Neil, every time I turn around national news publications want to talk to the Washington Correspondent for The Tennessee Star. The New York Times was knocking on your door, and you gave them a quote. (McCabe chuckles)
McCabe: A great bunch of kids at The Times. They, of course, were doing a hit piece on a place that I enjoyed working at One American News, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only positive quote that made it into that article. (Leahy chuckles) So I think I’m going to call that a win.
Leahy: Yes. All the mainstream media news outlets want to hear from The Tennessee Star’s Washington Correspondent Neil McCabe. And I want to hear from you, Neil about the impact on Biden’s legislative agenda of the Derek Chauvin guilty verdicts in the death of George Floyd.
McCabe: Well, I think, as they say on Wall Street, I think a lot of this verdict was already baked in and the lines are already drawn. So nothing is really going to change. I think the most significant thing, which is sort of ancillary to the Chauvin trial is what happened with Maxine Waters being scolded by the judge and giving Kevin McCarthy a chance to put some numbers on the board and force that vote.
The Democrats were able to defeat the motion to censor Waters, but it was 216 to 210. And basically, every Democrat voted the party line, which is a very scary thing for Pelosi. And if I can go into that, Pelosi runs her caucus very well. She is a brilliant vote counter, and she is able to garrison and heard and shepherd her votes. And the main tool that she uses is she goes to 218 to get a simple majority in the House.
And so basically you go around and you secure more than you need. You get like, 220 or 225 and you go around to your people, depending on how many you have. Once you’ve locked down your majority, what you tell people is there are people who are going to say, Nancy, I can’t go with you this time it’ll kill me in the district.
And Pelosi will say if I can get you out of it, I will. And so once she has her simple majority, she can then go around to people and say, I’m going to let you off the hook. And so you’ll see a number of votes going back to when Pelosi’s been Speaker, and then even with this majority leader and whatnot that she has allowed Democrats to vote against Democratic legislation and the Democratic motions as part of the deal.
It’s like if I let you off the hook on this gun vote when the abortion vote comes up, I’m going to need you. And that’s part of the way she cuts a deal. She was not able to let anybody off the hook this time because if she let this person off the hook, she’d have to let somebody else off the hook. So basically, they all had to go down together. And that shows you just how tight things are. If you saw 10 Democrats voting with Republicans, that would show you that Nancy Pelosi is confident and has control of her Chamber.
But if she’s got to lock everybody down, that means that they’re strapped to the max. And it’s not a good sign for Pelosi. It’s a good sign for McCarthy, who is very good when things are safe and the Democrats make a mistake. McCarthy is very good at sort of scooping up the ball. Where McCarthy is very bad is that there actually is no Republican agenda.
You never hear McCarthy talking about gun rights unless he’s trying to restrict guns and gun rights. You never hear him talking about immigration unless he’s trying to expand immigration. You never hear him talking about building the wall. So if McCarthy has the juice to get this Waters thing to the House floor, there’s a ton of bills that McCarthy could have been bringing to the House floor, he’s not going to do it. And that’s just the way it is.
He’s a passive reactive guy. And if that continues, it could jeopardize the red wave that is going to be coming and everybody smells it which is exactly why Biden is playing smash and grab with these executive actions and executive decisions. They just decided to make all school lunches is free. They just decided that they’re going to start restricting nicotine and tobacco. They’re talking about auto emissions. They’re cutting deals with Iran.
They’re cutting deals with China. They’re moving on NATO. It’s like Biden is in a hurry because the Democrats know they are supposed to lose the House in 2022. The only thing that’s going to stop the Republicans from taking the House is McCarthy sort of dampening voter enthusiasm as he continues to support people who voted to impeach Trump and continues to go after and ridicule conservatives and there is no reason to vote for Republicans because all he does is go after Democrats when they stumble.
Carmichael: Neil, let me ask you a question.
Carmichael: I’m going to take everything that you just said to be gospel to be correct.
McCabe: It is the gospel.
Leahy: The gospel according to Saint Neil. (Laughter)
Carmichael: Amen. Amen. My question is this, is the majority of the Republicans in the House like McCarthy? And if they’re not, if they’re more conservative than McCarthy, then how does McCarthy win his position of minority leader?
McCabe: Well, basically, there are probably 70 or 80 conservatives in the Republican conference. The rest of the guys are these goofballs who are active in the Rotary Club and they own five dealerships or they sold their business and they didn’t know what to do. The Republican Party, especially on the House side, loves to go with these so-called self-financing guys.
So if some rich guy decides he wants to run for Congress the Republican Party will back him because they don’t have to do any work. He can raise his own money. And so these guys get in and they are just good-time Charlies and they want to go along to get along. The reason why McCarthy is still there is that no one else is strong enough to make a run for it.
And so basically, McCarthy is there is the store literally a placeholder because Steve Scalise does not want to make a run for Speaker of the House. We already know that Liz Cheney is going to run for Speaker. She was trying to muster votes to go up against McCarthy for Speaker last time. So, I mean, there are people who want to take McCarthy down, but because nobody has the juice to take him down completely, they’re basically going to leave McCarthy there until they can figure out what they’ll do.
And so it becomes sort of this ghost ship, almost like we saw under Paul Ryan where he skips the bit in April of 2018 and refuses to resign and basically it just becomes this ghost ship. Remember, in 2018, the Republicans lost the House, but they also left 40 seats unchallenged. And McCarthy of course is part of that team.
Carmichael: Geez. There is nothing that I can look at to argue with you. But the clarity of the way that you said it is disappointing…
McCabe: You can’t argue with that. (Leahy laughs)
Carmichael: That’s true.
Leahy: Neil, where does this go? What has to happen? What has to change between now and 2022 for the Republicans to take back the House of Representatives?
McCabe: So basically, it’s McCarthy’s game to lose. You’re going to see some more retirement on the House side. Kevin Brady, rather the very powerful and wonderful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee when the Republicans had control, the ranking member there. He’s announced his retirement. Devin Nunes should be in place to take over that spot. And as you see, the sort of the jockeying around of the senior Republicans, you’re going to see some potential chairman that is going to decide you know what? Maybe I want to be Speaker.
Listen to the third hour here:
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