- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2022

PONTE VEDRA, Fla. — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy predicts a big Republican win in November and another victory in January, when he thinks the majority party will overwhelmingly choose him as speaker.

Mr. McCarthy, in an interview with The Washington Times, said he is confident that Republicans will win the net gain of more than five seats needed to push Democrat Nancy Pelosi out of the speaker’s chair when voters go to the polls in November.

“We will win the majority,” said Mr. McCarthy, 57. “I believe I will be speaker.”

He refused to predict how many seats House Republicans will gain in November, but others in his leadership team have pegged the number as high as 70.

Mr. McCarthy met with House Republicans this week at a golf resort in Florida to begin planning a legislative agenda to adopt if they win the majority.

Electing a speaker will be one of the first votes a Republican-led House would take when Congress reconvenes in January. 

Mr. McCarthy, who represents a Southern California district that includes Bakersfield, appears poised to easily win the gavel. 

The five-term lawmaker has broad support from the House Republican Conference despite divisions over his handling of a few party members labeled as “extremists.”

Mr. McCarthy raised a record $72 million in 2021 and gave much of it to House Republican candidates, many of whom he recruited. He provided another large sum to the campaigns of vulnerable Republicans running for reelection. 

Republicans could pick up as many as 70 seats, said Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, chairman of the House Republicans’ campaign arm.

Analysts are more cautious but think Republicans could pick up dozens of House seats, facilitated by 23 Democrats who announced they would not run for reelection. 

Mr. McCarthy refused to forecast the size of the Republicans’ likely win.

Unfinished redistricting efforts in five states could reshape some races, he said, and predictions don’t always come true. 

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, confidently declared in 2020 that his party would win up to 15 additional seats in the presidential election year. He cited political analysts who said Republicans would be dragged down by President Trump’s low approval ratings. Mr. Hoyer’s prediction came true in reverse. Republicans gained 14 seats, and Democrats lost 13 seats.

“We need five seats to win the majority,” Mr. McCarthy said. “We want to make it much higher than that. I’m going to focus on winning every seat possible, and I’m very optimistic we are going to win the majority.”

A sizable victory would further solidify Mr. McCarthy’s ascension to House speaker.

So far, he faces no competition for the top job in the chamber.

Party lawmakers are expected to elevate Minority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana to the role of House Majority Leader, the No. 2 position. 

Mr. McCarthy this year has weathered criticism from firebrand conservative Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who suggested in a podcast that he lacks enough votes on the far right to win the speaker’s gavel. 

Democrats stripped Mrs. Greene of her committee assignments after they discovered violent rhetoric directed at Democrats posted on her Facebook page. Mrs. Greene said Mr. McCarthy should have done more to protect her from the Democrats. 

Mr. McCarthy has also been criticized for failing to rein in Mrs. Greene and other House Republican lawmakers accused of extremist or other behavior that some fear will damage the party before the elections.

Mrs. Greene drew outrage last month after she spoke at an Orlando gathering of White nationalists. Rep. Paul A. Gosar, Arizona Republican, also appeared at the event. 

This week, Mrs. Greene joined Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina in labeling embattled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is fending off a Russian invasion, “a thug.”

Mr. McCarthy told The Times that he spoke with Mr. Cawthorn to “educate him” and said his view about Mr. Zelenskyy was wrong.

He publicly criticized Mrs. Greene in January after she compared the House’s COVID-19 mask mandate to the Holocaust. He also said Mrs. Greene and Mr. Gosar’s appearances at the America First Political Action Conference, run by White nationalist Nick Fuentes, was “appalling.”

Mrs. Greene later distanced herself from the views of those attending the Orlando event.

In the interview, Mr. McCarthy defended his handling of the conference’s rogue Republicans by saying lawmakers in both parties are entitled to differences of opinions, “but I will call it out when I think it’s wrong.”

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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