Before political forecasters began predicting that Republicans would gain a slim majority in the House following last week’s midterm elections, allies of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) were working on expanding the party’s rank-and-file membership within the chamber.
Notably, McCarthy’s operatives were attempting to entice Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Democrat from a Texas border district, to switch parties, according to sources who spoke to The Wall Street Journal.
“Cuellar’s district has been hit heavily with illegal immigration over the past two years, and the Texas congressman has been one of the most vocal critics of President Joe Biden from within the Democratic Party. Cuellar has made repeated appearances on Fox News to criticize Biden’s border policies,” the Daily Wire reported, citing the WSJ story.
According to McCarthy’s spokesman, Mark Bednar, the GOP leader did not request the outreach to Cuellar.
“Anyone suggesting this is simply exercising in fan fiction,” he told the WSJ. “Leader McCarthy is going to be elected speaker by the current and newly-elected members of the House Republican Conference. Our efforts are exclusively focused on bringing our conference together and saving the country.”
While some have suggested that McCarthy could face a challenge to become Speaker following a lackluster performance by Republicans overall in the midterms, others have suggested that no one else in the party could get the 218 votes necessary to overtake him, meaning he will likely win the job.
In the Senate, meanwhile, a major ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved this week to head off a push to delay party leadership votes in the upper chamber until the Georgia Senate race between incumbent Dem Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker is decided in a runoff next month.
“McConnell lapdog RINO Barrasso refuses to delay leadership vote, pushing ahead for vote this week before GA election is over,” Fox News host and conservative commentator Mark Levin noted on social media platform Gettr, in reference to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming). “This is how McConnell and his Senate hatchet men continue to hold power over the GOP. And, of course, they continue to get support from their DC media chorus, as demonstrated here earlier.”
His post contained a link to a Breitbart News story that noted:
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) on Friday shut down attempts to remove Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) from his leadership position in the Senate by writing a letter Friday to Republican senators denying their request to delay Wednesday’s leadership vote.
Barrasso, one of McConnell’s top lieutenants, wrote a letter Friday to GOP senators denying their request to delay Wednesday’s leadership vote until after all Senate votes had been counted.
“We look forward to meeting next week with our new and returning members. I expect a full and open discussion beginning at Tuesday’s policy lunch on our path forward,” he wrote in a letter obtained by CNN. “On Wednesday we will meet again for our scheduled conference for elections.”
“I welcome the questions and points made in the letter circulated by Senators Rick Scott, Lee and Johnson,” Barrasso, who is in charge of leadership elections, wrote.
Barrasso’s letter comes after Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Mike Lee (R-UT) all voiced opposition to holding a leadership vote before the Senate race in Georgia is decided.
“We are all disappointed that a Red Wave failed to materialize, and there are multiple reasons it did not,” the letter reads. “We need to have serious discussions within our conference as to why and what we can do to improve our chances in 2024.”
“The Senate GOP leadership vote next week should be postponed,” Rubio tweeted on Friday. “First we need to make sure that those who want to lead us are genuinely committed to fighting for the priorities & values of the working Americans (of every background) who gave us big wins in states like #Florida.”
Hawley agreed, tweeting, “Exactly right.”