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The House majority whip from Bakersfield has often been unable to corral the tea party lawmakers he helped elect. But he defends the chaos, saying Congress no longer operates like it used to.

By Evan Halper
October 4, 2013, 9:16 p.m.

WASHINGTON — For the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, Rep. Kevin McCarthy traveled the country recruiting and coaching anti-establishment, tea party-backed candidates for the 2010 election.

Many of the candidates recruited by McCarthy and his fellow Republican “young guns” — Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia and Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin — went on to win, creating a GOP majority and propelling the amiable congressman from Bakersfield into the No. 3 post in the House leadership, majority whip, whose job is to count votes and “whip up” support for the party’s positions.

In the years since, however, many of the new members McCarthy recruited have repeatedly refused to follow the leadership’s lead, and the whip’s operation has had a number of high-profile public stumbles. Nearly three years into the job, it’s still an open question whether McCarthy can corral, or even effectively keep track of, the majority he helped create.

The question is a crucial one as Republicans try to find a way out of the standoff that has caused a government shutdown. With Washington stalemated, Democrats, as well as many Republicans, wonder whether the GOP leadership has enough control to deliver on a deal if one is negotiated.

“McCarthy, Cantor and Ryan did a wonderful job of using this ‘young guns’ program to not only raise their own profile, but find people who could win,” said Steven C. LaTourette, a long-serving GOP congressman from Ohio who retired at the start of this year, citing frustration with the inability of his caucus to make compromises.

“Clearly, they had the expectation that it would be like in the old days: You helped me get elected; I will be loyal to you. It’s not working out that way.”

Managing the GOP caucus, La Tourette said, resembles owning a pet alligator: “You feed and feed and feed it, thinking it will be grateful, and then one day, it bites your arm off.”

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