DEBRA SAUNDERS: Is McCarthy A RINO?

RINO stands for Republican in name only, although lately the term means something quite different from a Republican who votes like a Democrat. For many in the pro-Trump base, it seems, RINO is a Republican who can win elections. As if that was a bad thing.

Now, apparently, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — the man most likely to be the speaker in the House vote on Jan. 3 — is a RINO. (RELATED: REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: If Republicans want to get things done, there’s only one choice for Speaker of the House)

McCarthy opposes abortion rights, voted to abolish Obamacare and is a 2020 election denier whom former President Donald Trump has dubbed “my Kevin.”

Nevertheless, Representative Andy Biggs shows up as the speaker because, according to Biggs, McCarthy is a “RINO establishment hack”.

Since his days as a California state legislator, McCarthy has gone from pragmatic conservative to loyal Trump lieutenant. Still, that’s not good enough for the losing wing of the GOP.

Biggs is one of five Republicans who have pledged not to vote for McCarthy. I fail to see how anyone who can count expects a rump of five to move the 435-member House — with 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats — further to the right. And yet, it is the dream.

“If you call Kevin McCarthy a RINO, you’re essentially calling the vast majority” of Republicans RINO, observed Mark B. Harkins, senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute. He added: “It’s a term that has lost its meaning because of its misuse.” (RELATED: REP. MATT GAETZ: Republicans need a real leader, not Kevin McCarthy)

Harkins told me there were only two reasons the GOP Five would oppose McCarthy — either they really believe he’s not up to it, or they think they can do him concessions.

The most likely beneficiary of their hostage situation is Representative Steve Scalise, the affable congressman from Louisiana who was shot by a left-wing activist during a congressional charity baseball practice in 2017.

Scalise, the House GOP leadership’s number two, pledged his support for McCarthy, but he didn’t say whether he would decline the helm through repeated votes to choose who wields the gavel.

If McCarthy doesn’t claim a majority after inconclusive counts, Harkins speculated, it’s conceivable that the GOP’s top dog will step down in favor of Scalise. (RELATED: REP. ANDY BIGGS: I’m running to replace Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House and smash the establishment)

One thing that seems obvious: Biggs, who garnered a modest 31 votes to McCarthy’s 188 in the House Republican conference vote in November, will not be the next speaker.

It is important to remember that the Democrats control the Senate and the White House. So it’s not as if the GOP’s wish list is likely to move forward unless the leaders strike deals.

I should note that the next speaker does not have to be a Republican, or even a member of the House. So at this point, Harkins joked, “Bring Elon Musk, damn it.”

Debra J. Saunders is a Fellow of the Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership at the Discovery Institute. Contact her at [email protected]

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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