Kevaggedon & the Discontents

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Holds Weekly Press Conference
Grievance is the fuel that powers MAGA politics, and that’s unlikely to change just because Kevin McCarthy bent the knee. Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
January 11, 2023

As details emerged from Kevin McCarthy’s private handshake deal with the so-called Taliban 20—the hardline conservatives who initially refused to support his bid for House Speaker—there were, inevitably, some Republicans who were outraged by what he had presumably traded away without their knowledge. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who had referred to the anti-Kevins as “terrorists” during negotiations last week, abstained from voting on the House Rules package. Rep. Nancy Mace blasted the deal for being “crafted in private,” before changing her tune after receiving her own private briefing. Others went a step further: “I’m a no,” tweeted Rep. Tony Gonzales, casting his vote with the Democrats—a vote that was received on the right, even among people who had opposed McCarthy, as a deeper betrayal. 

The problem wasn’t the text of the rules package itself, which is transformative but anodyne among Republicans, but rather the content of McCarthy’s secret promises to the MAGA caucus. Sure, there was the high-profile “motion to vacate” concession and the requirement that bills introduced to the floor contain a single legislative subject. There were promises to open MAGA-stoking investigations, such as a counter probe into the January 6th Committee, and an overall, Church Committee-style examination into the “weaponization” of the federal government against conservatives.