Kevin McCarthy Isn’t Jumping Off The Trump Train Any Time Soon

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), locked in a struggle to round up conservative votes for his House speaker bid, sidestepped chances on Wednesday to put some rhetorical daylight between himself and former President Donald Trump.

McCarthy wouldn’t rule out endorsing Trump in the 2024 presidential contest at a news conference in the U.S. Capitol, a direct contrast to his Senate counterpart’s thinly veiled belief that Trump would have a difficult time even taking the presidential oath.

A reporter asked McCarthy if he would endorse Trump, and McCarthy replied, “We haven’t talked about that yet.” Then he launched into a laundry list of things he said would be better if Trump had won reelection in 2020.

“If we had President Trump in, we wouldn’t have inflation. We wouldn’t have a border that’s runaway, we wouldn’t have gas prices as high as it is,” he said.

Similarly, he also declined to criticize the former president’s social media post 11 days ago that called for scrapping the U.S. Constitution and reinstalling Trump as president.

The former president said on Dec. 3 that “massive” electoral fraud meant it would be OK to “terminate all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

After his comment drew widespread and bipartisan derision, Trump reposted it and two days later said the media reports that he wanted to terminate the Constitution were “simply more DISINFORMATION & LIES.”

Asked about the posting Wednesday, McCarthy told HuffPost, “I always stand by the Constitution,” without elaborating.

“I always stand by the Constitution.”

– House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy, who has been in House GOP leadership since 2011, is hoping to grab the speaker’s gavel in 2023 when the 118th Congress convenes after House Republicans eked out a narrow win in November’s midterm elections. But he faces opposition from conservative GOP members and increasing doubts he will be able to round up the 218 votes needed to take the gavel.

If McCarthy is unable to lock down the speakership, Republicans face the prospect of a messy first day in charge of the House in January.

McCarthy’s declining to criticize Trump stood in contrast with his Republican counterpart on the Senate side of the Capitol. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not ruled out supporting Trump again but has made it clear he thinks Trump has cost the party politically.

McConnell on Tuesday blamed Trump for Republican losses of several winnable Senate seats in the fall, saying the party was unable to control who emerged as victors in the party’s primaries.

“Our ability to control primary outcome was quite limited in ’22 because the support of the former president proved to be very decisive in these primaries,” McConnell said.

As to Trump’s inflammatory post about the Constitution, McConnell, while avoiding direct criticism of the sentiment contained in Trump’s post, said last week, “Anyone seeking the presidency saying, essentially, the Constitution should somehow be suspended or not followed, it seems to me would have a very hard time being sworn in.”

The oath of presidential office includes vowing to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Trump endorsed McCarthy for speaker on Nov. 8, likely reflecting McCarthy’s role in resurrecting Trump’s reputation within the party following the Jan. 6, 2021, attempted insurrection by Trump’s supporters at the Capitol.

But when asked at the press conference Wednesday why he was having so much trouble getting enough public support to lock down his bid to succeed Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), McCarthy chided the CNN reporter who asked the question.

“Here we are with one of the biggest things going on on spending and I can always count on you for the most inappropriate question,” McCarthy said.