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His whipping strategy is bottom up, counting on member participation as legislation is being written and amended to build support.
That doesn’t mesh well with the top-down style that Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and the leadership team executed on some controversial fiscal bills. That often put McCarthy in a position of trying to whip a bill that members opposed from the outset.
The lack of unity among party leaders has also been problematic. One Republican who previously served in the House said McCarthy’s vote against the final fiscal-cliff deal sent the wrong message. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., also voted “no,” as did several committee chairmen. Boehner voted “yes.”
“If the top three leaders don’t agree, why do I have to be on the team?” is the message this sends to the rank and file, said a second former member.