McCarthy Jumps Off a Cliff

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Never say yes.

That was the strategy of Assembly Republicans when Kevin McCarthy was their leader earlier in the last decade; they couldn’t even bring themselves to vote for the tight budgets of a Republican governor. And it’s still McCarthy’s mantra, now that he’s the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives.

McCarthy voted no late New Year’s night on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. This was even though he’s the whip and Speaker John Boehner and the leadership had been pushing for votes for the package.

Such a vote makes little sense. McCarthy has little to fear from a primary challenge from the right. The legislation that passed was a more than decent deal for Republicans, who just lost an election and have been losing popularity ever since.

Instead, it demonstrates a we’ll-give-no-ground-ever-on-taxes philosophy – a party of no philosophy that has been part of what’s made the GOP all but irrelevant in his home state of California.

McCarthy needs to explain himself, and not just to official Washington or his constituents in Kern County.

He’s probably the most important Republican elected official in the state in this time of Democratic dominance. In that context, a vote like this doesn’t serve his or his party’s long-term interests very well. It literally says he’d rather take the country and its taxpayer over a cliff than accept a compromise that even members of his own party from elsewhere will accept.

If McCarthy feels this strongly, he should challenge Boehner – or step down from the leadership of the party.

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