New GOP Leaders Stick With Trump Despite Midterm Losses

Expect challenges to excessive Democratic investigations, McCarthy says

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., newly elected as House Minority Leader for the upcoming Congress, arrives for the press conference following the House GOP leadership elections in the Longworth House Office Building on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The new House GOP leadership team gave no indication Wednesday it would reconsider its cozy relationship with President Donald Trump, despite losses in dozens of suburban districts in the midterms last week.

Newly elected House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California acknowledged at a press conference Wednesday that winning back the American suburbs will be a “challenge” in 2020 but said multiple times at the press conference that “history was against” the GOP keeping control of both chambers of Congress in a midterm election with a first-term Republican president in the Oval Office.

McCarthy declined to assign blame for any midterm losses to the president and his bombastic immigration-centric rhetoric. Instead, he attributed Democratic gains to millions of dollars in outside spending from billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others.

The new House GOP standard-bearer, who will serve out the lame duck session as majority leader, indicated Republicans would actively protect Trump by countering Democratic efforts to execute oversight over the Trump administration.

Democrats want to “disrupt” and “impeach,” McCarthy said. Democratic leaders and prospective House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler have not suggested at any point before or since the midterms that they plan to pursue articles of impeachment.

Nadler and Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings have, however, already made clear that their top priority will be to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — including possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia.

Democrats have a laundry list of other matters they want to investigate — the president’s tax returns, possible violations of the Emoluments Clause, internal administration communications that led to the immigrant family separation policy at the U.S. border — but have said they know they will need to be methodical and prioritize.

The new Republican leaders panned the notion of Democratic House oversight over the administration.

Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, who will remain the House Republican whip after a unanimous voice vote in his favor Wednesday, said “people in this country don’t want an obstructive Congress.”

McCarthy agreed.

“If their agenda is simply investigations and impeachment ... we’ll be there to defend the American public,” he said.

McCarthy and Scalise were flanked at the press conference by new Republican conference chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who will fill the position her father held three decades ago; conference vice chairman Mark Walker of North Carolina; conference secretary Jason Smith of Missouri; and policy committee chairman Gary Palmer of Alabama, the first conservative House Freedom Caucus member to hold a leadership position.

The new National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, did not attend the press conference.

Walker branded the House GOP as the party of the future, noting the average age of the likely top three leaders on the Democratic side are a combined average of 78 years old. The average age of the new GOP leaders is 52.

“We’re all about new ideas,” Walker said.

The new leaders have not had a chance to discuss how they will extend an olive branch to the Freedom Caucus and other supporters of its founder, Jim Jordan, who lost the race for minority leader to McCarthy, 159 votes to 43.

McCarthy thanked Jordan for running, suggesting it was good for members to have options to weigh for new leadership.

Trump has told confidants that he wants Jordan, a fierce and skillful defender of the president on the cable news circuit, to be appointed ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee to repel possible impeachment proceedings against him, Politico reported Wednesday. That appointment does not, for now, appear likely, as Republican Reps. Steve Chabot of Ohio and Doug Collins of Georgia prepare to court steering committee votes for the post.

A spot has opened up for Jordan, though, to lead Republicans in the Oversight Committee. The current GOP chairman, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, is retiring in January.

“I think Jim is an incredibly talented guy,” Palmer said. “I think he will [be the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee] one day. He’s that talented,” Palmer said.

He declined to say whether “one day” meant in the new Congress in January or further in the future.

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