Kevin McCarthy’s Business Ties Complicate His Rise to Power
Kevin McCarthy, Inc. Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, is still working on landing the House speaker gig after six failed attempts. It’s the first such House floor showdown in a century, and business is at the heart of his woes.
Mr. McCarthy’s critics say he’s too friendly with Big Tech. The ultraconservatives who have stymied his rise to power list a number of big objections with Mr. McCarthy. They say that he isn’t sufficiently committed to right-wing causes and that he hasn’t pushed back enough against perceived anti-conservative bias on social media. Yet the would-be speaker published a policy proposal over the summer to “Stop the Bias and Check Big Tech” if Republicans took control of the House.
Mr. McCarthy’s messaging has not convinced hard-line party members. His hot-and-cold ties to Silicon Valley haven’t helped his standing either. Jeff Miller, a political adviser to Mr. McCarthy, also represents Apple and Amazon, and two former staff members are now Big Tech lobbyists. Meanwhile, Mr. McCarthy has benefited from tens of thousands of dollars in donations from tech companies and executives.
The Republican leader has also alienated onetime corporate allies. Lobbyists once bet big on Mr. McCarthy, but relations have soured somewhat after he embraced former President Donald Trump’s antagonistic approach to corporations with perceived ties to the left.
The Chamber of Commerce endorsed 23 Democrats for the House in 2020 and 15 won. That put the speakership out of reach for Mr. McCarthy at that time and he’s reportedly been sore since. The Republican pushed for Suzanne Clark, the Chamber’s C.E.O., to be removed but the organization was unmoved, and issued a statement in support of her.
Even before Mr. McCarthy’s failure this week, lobbyists were giving up on himand Washington insiders — including Paul Ryan, the former Republican House speaker now at the executive advisory firm Teneo — were telling executives to stay out of the political fray.
Meanwhile, the business of the government is stuck. Until Republicans resolve their internal conflicts, the House is at a standstill. Members have not been sworn in, administrative tasks and constituent services have been delayed and legislative work is on the back burner. Mr. McCarthy and his allies held talkswith the holdouts last night to find a resolution. Democrats could step in to help (members of both parties have apparently discussed it), but that doesn’t appear to be on the table right now.
Mr. McCarthy has vowed to continue for as long as it takes. In 1923, it took nine ballots to elect a speaker. The House is scheduled to meet again at noon.