Trump struggles to defend McCarthy as he considers 24-year offer


By Gabby Orr and Melanie Zanona | CNN

Former President Donald Trump has privately encouraged his allies to back House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s bid for House Speaker, two sources familiar with the effort say, believing the California Republican will be an asset down the road if the former president ends up in a contested 2024 primary.

House Republicans are scheduled to meet Monday night to discuss leadership candidates and vote behind closed doors on Tuesday. McCarthy will only need a simple majority to advance from Tuesday’s vote, but the vote on the House floor for president will take place when the new House meets in January, and McCarthy will need 218 votes at that time to win the presidency.

Trump reaffirmed his support for McCarthy’s leadership bid in an interview with Fox News last week and he has since worked on the phone to persuade Republican allies to back him, especially conservative members who remain skeptical of by McCarthy.

The news comes on the eve of Trump’s expected announcement for a third presidential campaign. The former president and California Republican have spoken out several times since the midterm elections, sources said, and McCarthy’s camp hopes Trump’s endorsement will help win over some of Trump’s staunchest supporters. who criticized McCarthy.

Despite Trump’s pro-McCarthy campaign, it hasn’t fully taken hold. Some of Trump’s staunchest allies have been all over the conservative media attacking McCarthy. However, one notable Trump ally who will actually be able to vote in the speakers’ race went on Steve Bannon’s podcast on Monday and voiced his support for McCarthy: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who called it a “bad strategy.” and “risky” to challenge McCarthy given their wafer-thin majority.

McCarthy has worked hard to woo Greene, from having weekly meetings with her in her office to promising her better committee assignments after Democrats kicked her off committees for inflammatory remarks.

Meanwhile, Trump aides and allies privately slammed Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, head of the Republican National Committee in Congress, amid disappointing midterm GOP gains, particularly on the House side. CNN has yet to predict which party will control the lower house, though Republicans appear on track to secure a narrow majority in the House. Emmer is competing with Representative Jim Banks, an ally of Donald Trump Jr., for the post of House GOP whip.

“The strategy is to shield McCarthy from blame because [Trump] needs him for his presidential run,” a Trump adviser said.

Trump is eager to garner public support from Republicans for his third presidential bid, with a separate GOP source saying he has asked to see which GOP lawmakers have endorsed him in the media. So far, House GOP conference chairwoman Elise Stefanik has been the highest-ranking Republican to officially endorse Trump’s 2024 candidacy.

Trump’s support for McCarthy contrasts with his relationship with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. GOP sources told CNN last week that Trump was calling on his allies in the Senate to drum up opposition to the Kentucky Republican ahead of the leadership election in that chamber on Wednesday.

A small but vocal group of GOP senators have called for delaying their leadership elections so they can have a “family discussion” about why the GOP has underperformed. And at least one Republican, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, has publicly vowed to oppose McConnell’s bid to lead the GOP.

McConnell has been calling colleagues over the past few days to bolster his support as his team plans to move forward with a leadership election on Wednesday. They plan to have a GOP Airline Clearing session on Tuesday.

House Freedom Caucus influence looms

Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a former chairman of the pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus, plans to issue a long-running challenge to McCarthy in the internal House GOP leadership election on Tuesday, according to GOP sources familiar with the matter. McCarthy’s team has been prepared for this eventuality.

Several members of the Freedom Caucus met McCarthy in his office on Monday as they sought to wring concessions from him in exchange for their votes as president.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry said while McCarthy has been willing to listen to them, he doesn’t see McCarthy making a deal until Tuesday, when Perry is “99% confident” someone will challenge McCarthy to show him. that he does not. t have the 218 votes he would need in the House in January.

“I don’t think anything will really change by then,” Perry told CNN, leaving the meeting in McCarthy’s office.

Rep. Bob Good, who said McCarthy faced “a difficult climb” to the presidency, said they had asked McCarthy to bring them his proposal to lead the House.

Perry said that while their main goal was to seek rule changes that would empower individual members — and weaken the speaker — that’s “not the limit” of their problems.

“We want to see this place change dramatically, reflect the will of the people and recognize how broken it is,” he said. “It’s up to anyone who wants to lead to present their vision and how they would change their part of it.”

This story was updated with additional developments on Monday.


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