Rep. McCarthy Turns Into House Majority Leader At the Stroke of Midnight

Rep. Kevin McCarthy officially becomes the House's second-in-command when the clock strikes 12, but it's a job he's already been doing for more than a month.

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The House will get a new majority leader at the stroke of midnight Friday, as Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) officially ascends to the post he won following the surprise defeat of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

McCarthy, 49, will become Speaker John Boehner's second-in-command and, potentially, his heir apparent. He moves up from the third-ranking position of whip that he's held since 2011.

In actuality, McCarthy has been performing the duties of majority leader since shortly after his election by House Republicans on June 19.

By announcing his decision to step down early, Cantor built in a nearly six-month transition to allow for the shifting of offices and to give his leadership staff a chance to find new jobs. But after smiling stiffly through a press conference and a round of TV interviews, Cantor faded almost entirely from view. He stopped attending G.O.P. leadership meetings and press conferences, and according to Roll Call, he has missed nearly 20 percent of House floor votes since his defeat.

McCarthy has been doing "double duty" for the last five weeks, one House G.O.P. leadership aide told The Wire. In addition to assuming many of Cantor's responsibilities, he has continued to do the job of whip — rounding up votes for G.O.P. proposals.

A former deli owner from Bakersfield, Calif., McCarthy is arguably closer in personality to Boehner (R-Ohio) than the more buttoned-up Cantor. He's known for joking around with fellow members and reporters alike, frequently quoting the movie Fight Club and turning to films like The Town in occasionally futile attempts to motivate and unify the fractious House Republican conference.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), a leader of the largest conservative bloc in the House, will replace McCarthy as whip after winning a three-way party race in June.

While the incoming leadership team held a celebratory news conference after the election, there are no plans for pomp and circumstance upon the formal transfer of power. That's partly out of respect for Cantor, who as a rank-and-file member for the final five months of his term will give up his lavish office suite, most of his staff and his security detail.

There are no press conferences or photo ops planned, leadership aides told The Wire. The transfer will occur only through a declaration on the House floor by Republican conference chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who will read Cantor's letter of resignation from the leadership and announce the election of McCarthy and Scalise.

But Cantor did get one gift on his way out the door: a gauzy, Hollywood-style tribute video made by McMorris Rodgers's office.

The video was played during the party's weekly conference-wide meeting on Tuesday in the Capitol basement, the last such gathering before Cantor formally hands over the reins to McCarthy.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.