Kevin McCarthy is facing a mutiny already

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When Kevin McCarthy was elected Speaker, it was by such a slim margin that even the most skilled of leaders would have had a tricky time of it. When any one member of your caucus can take your leadership position away from you just by withdrawing their support, it means you’re constantly beholden to everyone in your caucus. They each individually own you. And you can’t simultaneously keep two hundred-plus people happy.

Unfortunately for McCarthy, he has no leadership skills of any kind. And so it was just a matter of time before dueling factions within his own caucus each tried to hold his feet to the fire on the same issue, forcing McCarthy to alienate one faction or the other. McCarthy has found himself in precisely that situation when it comes to the budget mess that some House Republicans have insisted on creating.

McCarthy apparently blamed Steve Scalise for the budget debacle in private, and his words were leaked to the media (another sign of how little control McCarthy has over his caucus). Now other unnamed House Republicans are retaliating by leaking to Axios that conversations about ousting McCarthy from the speakership are now underway.

It’s not clear how many firm votes there are to remove McCarthy. But keep in mind that he only has a five vote Republican majority to begin with. If any six House Republicans move to remove him as Speaker, and every House Democrat goes along with it, he’s out. Now keep in mind that McCarthy didn’t get every Republican to begin with. In fact it took him fifteen rounds just to get elected by a one vote margin. If the House Republicans who refused to vote for him to begin with are still looking to get rid of him, they might only need to get one additional House Republican on board to make the math work. And given that at least one House Republican is leaking to the media that McCarthy could be a goner, well, do the math.

Of course a lot of this is mere positioning. Politicians routinely take what they hope will happen, and leak it to the media as if it’s going to happen, in the hope of giving it the momentum to end up happening. But if McCarthy is already in such trouble in these budget negotiations that House Republicans are leaking to the media about his potential ouster before the negotiations have finished playing out, there’s plenty of reason to believe they might oust him if this budget standoff ends up going as poorly for the Republicans as one might expect.

Even if McCarthy does survive this budget standoff, these kinds of ugly media leaks from his fellow House Republicans are ensuring that he’ll come out of this even weaker than ever. But then that’s what these House Republicans want. They don’t want a strong leader who’s going to keep them in line for the sake of trying to retain the majority in 2024. They want a weak leader they can each individually push around in order to get what they want on any given day, even at the expense of their collective strength going forward.

Whether Kevin McCarthy is ousted or not, this is playing pretty much exactly like you’d hope for. As long as House Republicans are unable to work together for a common corrupt cause, they’re making it that much harder to gain any traction for their current overall agenda. And they’re boosting the odds of the Democrats being able to take the House majority in 2024 and put an end to this madness.

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