With Republicans widely expected to win control of the House in Tuesday’s midterm election, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the leading candidate to become the next speaker, and this weekend he talked to CNN about what he plans to do if he is on control of the House starting in January.
“The first thing you’ll see is a bill to control the border first,” he told CNN’s Melanie Zanona. “You’ve got to get control over the border. You’ve had almost 2 million people just this year alone coming across.”
McCarthy added that he would like to use the death penalty for drug traffickers bringing fentanyl into the country, and to see the U.S. revive the Trump administration policy that required immigrants at the Southern border to remain in Mexico until the date of their immigration hearings in the U.S.
It’s not clear, however, how Republicans would be able to force President Joe Biden to reconsider his suspension of that policy – or indeed make any substantial changes at the Southern border without reaching an agreement with a White House that is likely to oppose their efforts.
Noting the difficulty of winning legislative battles in a divided government, CNN’s Zanona and Kristin Wilson said there’s a good chance that many of the bills offered by House Republicans in the next Congress “will be primarily messaging endeavors” given Democrats’ control of the executive branch — and, potentially, of the Senate.
Hearings and a potential showdown: McCarthy also said Republicans would ramp up investigations into the Biden administration, citing issues such as the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the real “origins of Covid” and oversight of federal spending during the pandemic.
Asked if impeachment was a possibility, McCarthy vowed that Republicans “will never use impeachment for political purposes” – while adding, “That doesn’t mean if something rises to the occasion, it would not be used at any other time.”
Federal spending will be a central focus, as well, McCarthy said, with Republicans planning to demand cuts in spending in return for cooperating with any increases in the debt ceiling, which will likely be necessary at some point in 2023. That approach involves the threat of defaulting on U.S. debt payments, an event that economists say would be disastrous for the global economy. But McCarthy denied that he would risk default, as some of the more extreme members of his party have discussed. “People talk about risking it,” he said. “You don’t risk a default.”
Still, expect to see more involvement from lawmakers on the extreme edge of the party. McCarthy indicated that he plans to restore Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to her committee assignments, which were taken from her by Democrats last year after she made incendiary comments about numerous topics, including calling the president Hitler and suggesting that wildfires in California were set intentionally by nefarious powers backed by an international cabal of Jewish bankers.
The bottom line: McCarthy made it clear that, as expected, Republicans will focus on border security, government spending and executive oversight, but provided few details about how he could successfully change federal policies in a divided government. The potential for partisan conflict looks high, though, and includes the possibility of a risky showdown over the debt ceiling.