Kevin McCarthy+John Boehner

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield listens as Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio speaks to reporters Tuesday after a House Republican Conference meeting. McCarthy is widely expected to succeed Boehner as speaker next month. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

By Noah Bierman
September 29, 2015

When Kevin McCarthy spoke at a California Republican convention a few years ago, he regaled the crowd with stories about his tense relationship with Nancy Pelosi: The Democratic leader, he said, greeted him with a sneering “he-llo Kevin” every time she saw him, the way Jerry Seinfeld used to greet his nemesis, Newman.

He clearly had the sentiment right, but might have exaggerated how often the two speak.

McCarthy and Pelosi are about to make history. If McCarthy becomes speaker of the House, as is widely expected, his ascent would mark the first time in history that both the speaker and minority leader of the chamber have hailed from the same state.

Several colleagues said they can’t recall ever seeing the two together.

In another era, holding the top positions on both sides of the political aisle might have brought a state billions of dollars in highway projects, research centers or military bases. But in a country where all politics is increasingly national – not local – and polarized by party, few on Capitol Hill expect special returns for California from a McCarthy-Pelosi duo.

The lack of a relationship between the two epitomizes the deep partisan divisions that have paralyzed Congress’ ability to pass major legislation, or even keep the government open.

“There hasn’t been a time since the Civil War when this place has been so partisan,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from Sherman Oaks. “There’s never been a time where ideology outweighed geography by a greater ratio.”

Both party leaders have flaunted their lack of personal ties.

Pelosi acted as if she barely knew McCarthy during a news conference last year, when McCarthy was in line to become the No. 2-ranking Republican behind Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio.

“I, myself, work with Speaker Boehner,” she told reporters, adding that she wasn’t sure if she’d ever been in a closed-door meeting with McCarthy, who by then was No. 3 in the House GOP leadership.

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