Old habits die hard.
As House Republicans settle into their new status in the minority—a post in which members typically unify to obstruct policy proposals from the majority—intraparty tensions remain as strong as ever, and could spell trouble for the GOP’s efforts to reclaim the chamber sooner rather than later.
In a conference-wide election on Wednesday, Republicans anointed their leaders for the 116th Congress. Outgoing Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was elected minority leader with 159 votes, besting the House Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan, who won 43 votes. Rounding out the party’s top three positions, Republicans also elected Steve Scalise as minority whip and Liz Cheney as conference chair, a position once held by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
“We serve in a divided government, in a divided country,” McCarthy told reporters following his election. “Our goal is to unite us back together again.”
McCarthy might have added that he serves not just in a divided government and country, but also in a divided party. In the past week, many of the ideological factions that have stymied House Republicans’ legislative efforts in recent years also threatened to complicate McCarthy’s rise. The California Republican had long been the favorite to lead the conference. Even so, conservative members and outside groups spent their post-midterm days attempting to gin up support for his challenger, Jordan, a perpetual gadfly of House Republican leadership. And, as Politico first reported on Wednesday, McCarthy faced overtures from President Donald Trump himself to help Jordan acquire a prominent committee post following his expected failed bid for minority leader.