WASHINGTON, June 18, 2014 — Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has won the vote to replace Eric Cantor as House Majority Leader.
And in many ways, the McCarthy tune is vaguely familiar.
Excessive campaign spending by Cantor reportedly contributed to his downfall, and his high catering expenditures caught media attention.
Since January, McCarthy – who is not up for re-election in November – has spent almost $50,000 on “catering,” most of it outside his home state of California.
Cantor was slammed for spending $8,900 for private jet services.
In April 2014 alone, McCarthy paid $17,728 for private jet services to Golden State Air Charter.
Then there is immigration. Although Cantor repeatedly voted against amnesty, his opponent Dave Brat successfully hammered Cantor for his conciliatory tone on some immigration issues, including statements that he could work with President Obama on some types of immigration reform.
To many Republicans, that was the final straw.
McCarthy, who hails from a heavily Latino district, has a reputation as being even more pro-immigration reform than Cantor. He backed the Obama administration’s move to stop deporting immigrants currently serving in the military or attending school. He also has supported giving undocumented immigrants a path to legal status, although he does not support giving them full citizenship. He recently said he would support allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States.
McCarthy, who has a reputation as a likeable, affable member of Congress, is also known as savvy and calculating. He went from a relative unknown in the House to a major contender for the leadership position after Cantor suggested him for the leadership position.
The California representative is friendly and builds strong relationships in Washington. “He would win a popularity contest, that’s for sure,” says one Congressional staffer who knows McCarthy, “and I mean that in a good way.”
McCarthy is admired for his “down home” attitude and broad smile. His success story is the stuff of Hollywood. At 19, McCarthy won $5,000 in the lottery and used it to open a deli. He has an MBA from California State University, Bakersfield.
McCarthy is also the poster child for the business conservative, passionate against big government and government regulation and quiet on social issues such as abortion and same sex marriage.
“It’s really true,” says the staffer, “everyone likes him. You can’t really help it.”
There is one conservative group that isn’t interested in hand shakes and relationship building, but worries more about hard-core conservative values: the Tea Party.
Heavy spending, wavering on immigration and putting his political career over traditional Republican values could position McCarthy as the next target for the group that ousted Cantor from his position.
Could there be a Brat in McCarthy’s future?