Rep. Kevin McCarthy Elected House GOP Leader For Next Congress With Democrats winning control of the House in the midterm elections, GOP representatives and party freshmen elected leaders to run a smaller, more conservative conference in the next Congress.
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After Midterm Losses, House Republicans Elect McCarthy As Top Leader

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After Midterm Losses, House Republicans Elect McCarthy As Top Leader

After Midterm Losses, House Republicans Elect McCarthy As Top Leader

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/667488296/667936327" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

House Republicans lost more than 30 seats in last week's election. It was a huge blow that cost them the majority after eight years in power. Today, they came back to Washington and re-elected some of the same people who led the party to defeat. Current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be minority leader next year. And McCarthy says Republicans in the House will work with Democrats when they can, but not if all they want to do is investigate the president.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: We're going to have to work harder. I think our message is going to have to be clearer. Our ideas are going to have to be stronger.

SHAPIRO: He also pledged to win back the House for Republicans in 2020. NPR's Kelsey Snell has been covering this and is here with us now. Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: Why are things staying the same after such a big loss? Often there's a shakeup. Were there people challenging the sitting leaders to replace them?

SNELL: Well, that's part of why things stayed the same. There just weren't (laughter) a lot of people running to challenge the current leaders. There was only one contested top race in the House, and that wasn't even close. McCarthy beat conservative leader Jim Jordan of Ohio by an absolute mile. It was really a decisive win for McCarthy. Basically, they had a hard time picking a leader. When they nominated Paul Ryan, the current speaker of the House, back in 2015...

SHAPIRO: Right.

SNELL: ...They had to beg him to take the job. And McCarthy's kind of been waiting in the wings for the top leadership position. But this is a really divided Republican Party, and they were hard to manage back when they had the majority. And they're - it's (laughter) really just not very much fun to be in the minority when you can't set the schedule. And, you know, it's just a really tough time to be a leader.

SHAPIRO: Is there any consensus among Republicans about who's to blame for their losses?

SNELL: McCarthy was asked about this specifically a couple of times. And he said Republicans essentially had real problems in the suburbs. But he doesn't blame the Republican message, what - and the way they talked about taxes or health care or President Trump's approval ratings. He says he blames big spending from outside groups and donors like former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. And he also blamed history. The - he says that the party in the control of the White House usually loses seats in a midterm. And he says that's what happened.

He was also asked if he was worried about how the losses would, you know, make it harder for the GOP to recover. And here's what he said.

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MCCARTHY: I think we stick to our principles, stick to our goals. You'll see this party continue to grow and be the majority that represents all of America, in gender, in face, reality. We have a - room cut out for us. And watch us in two years. We'll be back.

SHAPIRO: So he talks about being more representative in terms of race and gender. But when you look at a photo of all the incoming freshmen, the Republicans are very white and very male. And the party's representation in Congress has only been getting more so over the years. How are they planning to address this?

SNELL: Yeah. It is very, very stark this year. Democrats did elect a much more diverse freshman class that's coming in, particularly in the House. Now, Republicans did make some moves to bring women into, you know, more leadership positions. They lost Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who was in leadership. She won re-election but chose not to stay in leadership.

And she's being replaced by Liz Cheney. She's now the head of the House GOP Conference in charge of messaging. And she says she's ready to be more proactive and more aggressive in countering Democrats. She also says Republicans need to pitch that their policies are right for everyone, not just women.

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LIZ CHENEY: We shouldn't act like women are all going to, you know, go in one direction because we're women. I think at the end of the day, our policies are the ones that help give opportunity to everybody.

SNELL: And she talked a lot about that, just about how Republicans need to be prepared to talk more about why they're right for people. And I should say, over in the Senate, Republicans also added women to their leadership ranks. Joni Ernst is now on the team over there.

SHAPIRO: Any other leadership changes on the Senate side?

SNELL: No, not really (laughter). Democrats and Republicans both had their elections over there today. And basically, everybody was re-elected. Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer still have their same jobs.

SHAPIRO: OK. In just a couple sentences...

SNELL: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: ...I know we could spend a lot of time talking about the House Democrats, but leadership fight to come there?

SNELL: Yeah. Things'll get interesting the week after Thanksgiving. And Nancy Pelosi is still fighting to be the speaker of the House.

SHAPIRO: It's NPR's Kelsey Snell. Thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAUSCHKA'S "TRAFFIC")

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