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Cracking the Whip a Big Job for Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
With fewer weapons in his arsenal than previous individuals in his post, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy has a difficult task herding House Republicans on tough votes.

Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lost 21 of 84 MTR votes in 2007, her first year in the majority. Boehner has lost none of the 76 MTR votes the House has taken so far.

McCarthy was also able to persuade a sizable number of Republicans to vote for last summer’s debt-limit increase, despite many Republicans’ pledges to never vote for one.

But nothing has been easy, and almost every major vote — and some minor ones — have been spectacles of Republican strife. The listening sessions have helped, but still, whether it has been continuing resolutions, the debt limit or extending the payroll tax cut, McCarthy has sometimes struggled to get 218 votes.

During the debt ceiling debate, conservatives resisted leadership’s compromise efforts, forcing leaders to agree to votes on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution before ultimately agreeing to a deal with the Senate.

McCarthy faced a revolt over Boehner’s push for a short-term payroll tax cut extension before Christmas. McCarthy and Boehner eventually forced the short-term extension, but the fallout has continued.

Republicans have lost six votes on the floor thus far. And while four of those votes were on suspension bills, which McCarthy does not whip, they all have been hung on his operation.

McCarthy has also had to rely on Democratic votes, including to pass most of last year’s spending bills.

Hoyer said while McCarthy’s troubles have meant he has needed his help, the blame for the GOP’s woes rests just as much on the shoulders of Boehner and Cantor. “The failure of a Whip operation is not the failure of the Whip him- or herself … it’s a team dynamic,” Hoyer said.

McCarthy said he is proud of his team’s efforts, arguing that “if you really judged based on what we’ve had to achieve, we’ve made great strides.”

“I’ll put our Whip team up against anybody else’s, because we’re achieving stuff … it may not be as pretty, but you still get the same results.”

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