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McCarthy: Whipping Without a Hammer

Bill Clark/Roll Call

The Ohio Republican also praised McCarthy’s reliance on relationships rather than using firm discipline to bring Members into line.

“Unlike previous Whips who’ve been heavy-handed ... he’s been very receptive” to people’s concerns, LaTourette added. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Freshman Rep. Scott DesJarlais described McCarthy as being very “responsive” to questions during the debate.

“He has been eager to meet with us and talk and answer any questions we might have,” the Tennessee Republican said. “Just the other day, I had a question that I didn’t feel was completely answered, called his office and Kevin came right over, sat down for 20 minutes, took all the time that I needed.”

Privately, lawmakers said that despite an easygoing demeanor, McCarthy’s relationship with Members, particularly in the freshmen class, has been key to tamping down challenges to leadership.

One Republican pointed to McCarthy’s speech during last week’s weekly Conference meeting as a turning point on the short-term CR vote, arguing that he pulled Members back from insisting on an approach that could have forced a government shutdown.

McCarthy downplayed his role in squashing the nascent rebellion, arguing that it was more a debate over tactics than philosophy.

“This wasn’t a fight of principles. No one was disagreeing on principles. It was a discussion of tactics. Its kind of like doing MapQuest, and one person picked to take the freeway route and one person picked to take all streets,” he said.

“They thought it’s a better tactic to show them we’re serious about where we’re going.”

McCarthy acknowledged that the less restrictive leadership style he, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) have pursued has caused some frustration among his colleagues, particularly those who want them to use their power to force through GOP priorities.

But McCarthy insisted it is best to “follow the rules” and avoid the excesses that have marked previous House regimes.

“That’s an ugly way to win. We’re not going to win that way. And so, that’s a different way, and that builds frustration with Members. But they respect it in the end. And I think it will help us in the long term in one getting better legislation but also in our leadership,” he said.

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