WASHINGTON — The succession of House Speaker John A. Boehner will, in all likelihood, be swift and tidy. In the days since Boehner suddenly announced his resignation, only one name has been floated as a serious replacement: the GOP Majority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California.
McCarthy, a five-term representative from the deep-red interior of central California, is well-known for his rapid rise to House leadership — he would be the least experienced speaker, in terms of years served, since the 19th century.
Part of the reason why McCarthy has gotten so far so fast is that he is broadly well-liked among the different wings of the fractious GOP conference, from moderates to the far-right Freedom Caucus. People like his affable disposition and eagerness to listen, but they also like his money: McCarthy has put together one of the most prolific fundraising operations in Congress, giving millions and millions of dollars to House candidates over the years.
Minnesota’s three Republican representatives have all benefited from McCarthy’s fundraising largesse at some point. Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer has received a total of $15,000 from McCarthy’s leadership PAC: $10,000 for his campaign in 2014, and already $5,000 toward his re-election bid next year.
Third District Rep. Erik Paulsen has received a total of $13,779 from McCarthy, going back to 2008, when Paulsen first ran for Congress. McCarthy’s biggest single contribution was in 2010, when he gave $6,280 to Paulsen’s campaign. Second District Rep. John Kline has received less from McCarthy, benefiting more from the even vaster fundraising operation that Boehner built. But in 2014, McCarthy passed along $5,000 to Kline’s re-election campaign.
McCarthy was also generous with former Sixth District Rep. Michele Bachmann, giving her a total of $3,000. Bachmann was one of 10 Republicans McCarthy gave to in 2006, which was the first time he ran for Congress. That early generosity tapered off as McCarthy rose through the ranks: he stopped giving to her after 2008, even as he expanded his fundraising operation.
Of course, campaign money doesn’t buy loyalty, and top party leaders routinely spread cash around to members of the conference. (Last cycle, Boehner gave $5,000 to North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, who filed a rogue motion to unseat the Speaker back in July.)
Our kind of Republican
The potential bond between McCarthy and the Minnesota Republicans goes deeper than fundraising ties, however. At their roots, they are all similar types of Republican. None is particularly an ideologue: the conservative Heritage Foundation, which scores members of Congress on key votes, gives McCarthy a 63% conservative rating — right near the middle of the pack of House Republicans. Emmer scores the exact same; Paulsen and Kline rate 59%.
If McCarthy is to navigate his fractious conference and the hard-line conservatives that did in Boehner, he’ll need to lean hard on the Minnesota Republicans. On key votes, they have resisted the anti-establishment tide within their party to help spare Boehner and McCarthy embarrassing defeats.
Earlier this year, for example, Emmer, Paulsen, and Kline numbered among the 75 House Republicans who voted to pass a homeland security funding bill free of language to roll back President Obama’s immigration executive actions. That group — just one third of the House GOP — joined with Democrats to pass the bill and avert a government shutdown.
Leadership elections will take place on October 8. In addition to electing a speaker, Republicans have other big decisions to make, like who would replace McCarthy as Majority Leader.
For now, there is little reason to believe Emmer, Paulsen, and Kline will not back McCarthy. On Tuesday, Kline said that he planned to support McCarthy, saying they had a good working relationship forged during Kline’s tenure as chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Emmer did not provide comment. Paulsen said he does not comment on leadership races.