PONTE VEDRA, Fla. — The top House Republican said former President Donald Trump’s leverage on party lawmakers, who are poised to control the majority next year, hinges on whether he makes another bid for the White House.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican and close ally of the former president, said he’ll weigh the input and influence Mr. Trump, who is playing an outsized role in the 2022 midterm election and speaks regularly to some top Republican leaders while publicly lambasting others he believes are not loyal enough to him.
Mr. McCarthy talks to the former president frequently, he said, but wouldn’t forecast how big of an influence Mr. Trump will have over a newly minted GOP majority.
“I assume he’s going to play some role,” Mr. McCarthy told The Washington Times. “I think that he’s very helpful right now with us, for our campaign. And I know the president will always be on a policy stage.”
Yet, Mr. McCarthy said, Mr. Trump’s ultimate leverage with the GOP is tied to the 2024 presidential election and most importantly, if the former president launches another bid for the White House.
“He has not made a decision yet whether he runs or not, and that would determine that question,” said Mr. McCarthy, who sat down for an interview while attending the House GOP Conference retreat in North Florida.
Campaign analysts predict the House GOP will pick up enough seats to win back the majority and could flip dozens of blue districts as voters sour on President Biden and an increasingly left-wing Democratic agenda.
Mr. Trump did not appear at the GOP retreat, the second year in a row he has skipped the event. Mr. McCarthy said the former president plans to meet with GOP lawmakers and other Republicans next month at a fundraiser in Dallas.
He played down any internal party divide over the former president, pointing out that GOP lawmakers broadly supported the Trump administration’s agenda and like Mr. Trump, are eager to reverse the damage they believe has been inflicted on the country by President Biden.
Mr. Trump has publicly attacked some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for failing to back his claim that he won the 2020 presidential election and it was stolen from him by Democrats.
Mr. McCarthy said the GOP isn’t focused on the divide over Mr. Trump.
“The biggest challenge we all have as Americans is about where inflation is, where crime is in our streets, what the Democrats have done with one party control,” McCarthy said. “And that unites Republicans. They may have some differences with one another, but everybody’s united.”
Mr. McCarthy said if he controls the gavel in 2023 he won’t renew the select committee created by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to investigate the role Mr. Trump and Republicans played in inciting and facilitating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Instead, Mr. McCarthy said, House Republicans will investigate whether Mrs. Pelosi, a California Democrat, took sufficient steps to secure the Capitol that day and whether she rejected requests for additional security.
Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said then-House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving denied his request to put the National Guard on standby that day to help protect the building. Republicans want to see whether Mrs. Pelosi knew about the request.
“I’ll look into what the communications were with the speaker and the Sergeant at Arms,” Mr. McCarthy said.
Otherwise, he’s not interested in carrying out the original mission of the panel, which he said is completely partisan.
Mrs. Pelosi appointed two anti-Trump Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, to serve on the committee and the duo have since then become estranged from the GOP conference.
The Jan. 6 committee is seeking interviews and electronic communications of Trump administration officials and some GOP lawmakers over their involvement in the rally that preceded the attack and whether they may have known about plans by rioters to break into the building. The committee is not investigating security lapses that resulted in hundreds of angry rioters pushing past metal barriers and police to gain access to the building.
There is no need for the panel to continue, he said.
“I don’t think this committee will do anything, in essence, that matters in that process,” Mr. McCarthy said.
At the three-day retreat, Republican lawmakers prepare an agenda focused on reducing crime, improving border security, cutting government spending and increasing U.S. energy production.
Republicans will send bills to the White House that will be difficult for Mr. Biden to veto, Mr. McCarthy said, because they’ll be aimed at improving public safety, lowering gas prices and ending the massive surge in illegal immigration along the southern border.
“They’ll have to be the ones to veto,” he said. “And if it’s very popular with the American public, I think they’re the ones who lose and the American public will continue to fight for it.”