CAPITOL HILL— Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have elected California congressman Kevin McCarthy as their new majority leader. The four-term lawmaker will succeed Eric Cantor, who is relinquishing the post after losing a primary election in his congressional district last week.
Forty-nine year-old Kevin McCarthy now becomes the No. 2 in the House Republican leadership after Speaker John Boehner. His new post will see him set the legislative agenda in the House of Representatives, where Republicans have the majority.
In comments following the party vote, McCarthy said the country is facing difficult times and that it is time for Republicans to turn them around.
“America is struggling. We are struggling with a stagnant economy, a failed health care law and so many people are living paycheck to paycheck. They are looking for people that put people before politics. I make one promise - I will work every single day to make sure this Congress has the courage to lead, and the wisdom to listen. And we’ll turn this country around,” said McCarthy.
Some Republicans, like Michigan Representative Justin Amash, say Thursday's vote did nothing to address the concern of many conservative voters regarding the direction of the party leadership.
“I don’t think the results today are going to satisfy ordinary Americans. I’m not just [talking] about the Tea Party, I’m talking about ordinary Americans, regular Republicans back home who are demanding that we listen to them,” said Amash.
Representative John Fleming, a conservative from the southern state of Louisiana, said Americans are beginning to take out their frustrations on Republicans and the party leadership for not doing enough to push back against President Barack Obama’s agenda.
“I think it’s going to be one of the first things he [McCarthy] says: that we’re going to really begin to push back, we’re going to grow our majority in the House, we’re going to take back the Senate and we’re going to put good, solid, conservative legislation on the president’s desk and it’s going to be up to him to veto it or sign,” said Fleming.
Following McCarthy’s move from the third most powerful Republican post in the House to the second, the party's lawmakers chose Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise to succeed him as majority whip, the official who rounds up votes for legislation supported by party leaders.
As Congress is off for most of the summer, the two new Republican House leaders will have just 12 legislative days from July 31st, when Cantor officially resigns, to November’s midterm elections.