Capitol Weekly

By MIA SHAW
July 1, 2014

Kevin McCarthy, the newly minted House Majority Leader, rose speedily through the GOP ranks during his time as a California legislator – and used political instincts he honed in Sacramento to achieve power in Congress.

“In 2000, I introduced Kevin McCarthy to a friend of mine; I said, ‘Pay attention to him – someday this guy’s going to be Speaker of the House of Representatives,” said Jim Brulte, the current chair of the Californian Republican Party, who served as the GOP leader of both houses. “He was smart and the ultimate team player.”

“It is significant that, on some important issues, (Democratic Senate President pro Tem John) Burton will cut his deals with McCarthy and ignore the Democratic caucus,” the California Journal noted in a 2004 analysis of McCarthy’s role.

In only his fourth term in Congress, McCarthy was elected to the House’s second most powerful position after the Speaker. This was after he won his primary election unopposed in June in the 23rd Congressional District.

With Congressional approval ratings at a record low 16% according to a June Gallup survey, McCarthy’s new position is not without risks. While McCarthy currently has support from both establishment Republicans and the Tea Party, he may find increasing difficulty in the coming years to keep both groups satisfied as his district grows more diverse.

“The question moving forward in this new job is whether he decides to redirect his focus from politics to policy or whether he’s content to let his colleagues take the lead on the key issues while he focuses on maintaining and expanding his party’s majority,” said Dan Schnur, head of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

During his time in the state Assembly, McCarthy was known as a deal-maker, especially on the state budget. McCarthy became minority leader only two months after Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger took office in 2003, and worked closely with him to unite the party by engineering difficult votes on controversial issues.

“It is significant that, on some important issues, (Democratic Senate President pro Tem John) Burton will cut his deals with McCarthy and ignore the Democratic caucus,” the California Journal noted in a 2004 analysis of McCarthy’s role.

Those who have worked with McCarthy insist his unwavering work ethic and sharp attention to personal detail resonated with the rest of the caucus.

“He struck me during those days as a nice guy, well-spoken but not especially effective in the Democrat-controlled state Assembly and in a capital city dominated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger,” noted newsman Mark Gladstone, who covered McCarthy in California.

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