DEBRA SAUNDERS: Is McCarthy a RHINO?

RINO stands for Republican in name only, although of late the term has come to mean something very different from a Republican who votes like a Democrat. For many in the pro-Trump base, it appears that the RINO is a Republican who can win the election. Like it’s bad.

Now apparently, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — the man most likely to be speaker when the House votes on Jan. 3 — is a RINO. (RELATED: REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: If Republicans want to get things done, there’s only one choice for House speaker)

McCarthy opposes abortion rights, voted to repeal Obamacare and is a 2020 re-election snub, whom former President Donald Trump called “my Kevin.”

Nevertheless, Rep. Andy Biggs is running for speaker because, Biggs argues, McCarthy is an “establishment RINO hack.”

Since his days as a California state legislator, McCarthy has transformed from a pragmatic conservative to a loyal Trump lieutenant. However, this is not good enough for the defeated wing of the GOP.

Biggs is one of five Republicans who have pledged not to vote for McCarthy. I can’t understand how anyone who can count expects a five-footer to move the 435-member House — with 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats — further to the right. And yet, this is the dream.

“If you’re going to call Kevin McCarthy a RINO, you’re basically calling the vast majority” of Republicans RINOs, observed Mark B. Harkins, senior fellow at the Institute of Governmental Affairs at Georgetown University. He added, “It’s a term that has lost its meaning because of its misuse.” (RELATED: REP. MATT GATES: Republicans need a real leader, not Kevin McCarthy)

Harkins told me there are only two reasons why the GOP Five will oppose McCarthy — either they really think he’s not up to the task, or they think they can squeeze concessions out of him.

The most likely beneficiary of their hostage situation is Rep. Steve Scalise, the suave Louisiana congressman who was shot by a left-wing activist during a congressional charity baseball practice in 2017.

Scalise, the number two guy in the House GOP leadership, has pledged his support for McCarthy but has not said whether he will decline the reins through repeated votes to choose who wields the gavel.

If McCarthy doesn’t claim a majority after inconclusive counts, Harkins speculates, it’s conceivable the GOP top dog would step aside in favor of Scalise. (RELATED: REPRESENTATIVE ANDY BIGGS: I’m running to replace Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House and break the establishment)

One thing seems clear: Biggs, who polled a measly 31 votes to McCarthy’s 188 when the House Republican caucuses voted in November, will not be the next speaker.

It is important to remember that Democrats control the Senate and the White House. So it’s not like the GOP’s wish list is likely to move forward unless leadership cuts deals.

I should note that the next speaker does not have to be a Republican, or even a member of the House. So at this point, Harkins quipped, “Bring on Elon Musk, what the hell.”

Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Contact her at [email protected]

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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