Conservatives agitate for change after GOP loses the House

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Nancy Pelosi wrangles votes in her bid for House speaker, another leadership battle is playing out on the Republican side, where Kevin McCarthy faces a challenge from conservative Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan to lead the new GOP minority.

Republicans lost the House majority in this week’s midterm elections, and conservatives are blaming the GOP establishment and angling for changes. McCarthy burned up the phone lines Thursday shoring up his support. And down ballot, the GOP will add a familiar name to the leadership lineup — Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney who announced her bid for the No. 3 GOP leadership spot.

But the bigger battle continues to play out on the other side, where Democrats hold a slim majority, now at 225 seats. That leaves Pelosi little room for error as she rounds up the 218 votes needed to become the first woman to reclaim the speaker’s gavel.

Pelosi’s opponents said they were mobilizing Thursday and discussing writing a letter to show there are enough votes to block her from becoming speaker. Foes have tried to oust Pelosi before. But this time, they say their effort could show some two dozen new and returning House Democrats who won’t give her their vote. On the campaign trail, several candidates said they’d oppose her.

“We have enough,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., one of those who described the effort.

The group was still deciding whether to draft the letter or state their case in person to Pelosi when House Democrats meet privately in the days ahead, he said. “If you add in all the recently elected members who have said they’re not voting for Pelosi in our opening salvo, the math isn’t there. She doesn’t have the votes,” Schrader said.

Pelosi’s allies quickly swatted back the claim as exaggerated. She said this week she’s confident she’ll be speaker, and even got a boost from President Donald Trump, who said he’d like to work with her. Several House races remain undecided, and her hold on the majority could grow if other Democrats are elected.

“Leader Pelosi is confident in her support,” said spokesman Drew Hammill.

Allies point out her opponents actually lost ground Thursday in a separate effort to challenge her leadership by revising the caucus rules for House Democrats.

Congress returns next week to begin sorting out new leadership after eight years of Republican power. Closed-door sessions of voting for leadership positions will set the stage for the speaker’s election in January, when the new members of Congress take their first votes.

On the GOP side, McCarthy, the House majority leader who is close to Trump, is favored for the top spot in the minority, but he has struggled to shore up support from the GOP’s right flank of lawmakers. They have been skeptical of the California Republican and questioned his conservative bonafides. Some would prefer to elect a street fighter who will confront Pelosi’s Democrats in the new House majority.

Trump signaled he’d be happy with McCarthy, but he’s also promoted Jordan, the Ohio Republican, who is a regular on Fox News and popular with conservative groups beyond Washington.

On Thursday, McCarthy was calling colleagues, pledging to fight Democrats and win back the majority.

McCarthy promised “to use every tool at our disposal to deliberately challenge House Democrats” and protect Trump’s agenda. In a letter to colleagues, he acknowledged losing the majority was “difficult” and said the road ahead would be hard. “I expect us to win back the House.”

To become minority leader, McCarthy would need support from half the Republicans in the House. Their tally now stands at 197, but some races remain undecided. Jordan is expected to pick up support from dozens of members.

Jordan’s bid remains a longshot, but he’s making inroads into leadership for the Freedom Caucus, whose members want a seat at the table. His supporters outside the Capitol are revving up to support him.

“Are you going to elect the same people who lost the election, or are you going to elect someone new?” asked Adam Brandon, president of the conservative group FreedomWorks, which announced its support Thursday for Jordan.

If McCarthy and Jordan both fall short, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the GOP whip who was seriously wounded in last year’s shooting at a congressional baseball team practice, could swoop in. For now, he’s running to keep his position as vote counter.

While Jordan, a former college wrestling champ, is seen as the brawler needed, his bid may be complicated by allegations this summer that, as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University years ago, he did not do enough to counter claims of sexual abuse by the team doctor, who has since died. Jordan has denied knowing of any allegations of wrongdoing.

He’s not the only Republican leader with baggage. Scalise has had to distance himself from an appearance in Lousiana by a group with ties to David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Scalise has said he was unaware of the link.

Cheney, meanwhile, will run for conference chair, now held by Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who will not seek another leadership position.

GUEST EDITORIAL: Why Indiana voters should vote Brenton By Guest Poster on November 5, 2018

As I engage with voters on the campaign trail, I hear over and over again, “Why should I vote for you?” I always welcome the opportunity to share my beliefs and Libertarian philosophies about freedom and liberty.

As your senator from Indiana, I will demand a balance budget. I will end deficit spending. I will stop politicians from taxing us all into the grave and beyond. I will work to roll back and eliminate every program that is not authorized by the Constitution. I will require that all taxes be constitutional and that we limit the size and scope of the federal government only to constitutional functions.

As a Libertarian, I believe in the founding principles of our country. I believe in the Declaration of Independence, that the Constitution is the master contract and hold fast to the rights enumerated by the Bill of Rights. I believe that we have more rights than listed in the first 10 Amendments but they are a good start.

I believe the Constitution was designed to limit the federal government and wish to return the functions of our government to only those authorized by the Constitution. My focus as senator would be to stop those who wish to grow the federal government and eliminate the things that are not specifically authorized by the Constitution. I often ask voters, “Would you be willing to give up your favorite federal government program if it meant we could eliminate federal income taxes?” Most happily agree at the thought of reducing the taxes they pay.

Voters are concerned that some federal government programs provide valuable benefits that they would not want eliminated. The state in which they live could, if the citizens and legislators agree, provide those services instead. The social safety net does not need to be dissolved. People still need help. However, it’s clear that the Constitution does not authorize most of the federal government programs that exist today.

As a fiscal conservative, I believe that a balanced budget is imperative. I believe that it is immoral to create debt obligations that fall on the generations that follow us. The interest alone on the debt is a millstone that will follow every living American to the grave — along with our children and grandchildren. This is unacceptable and must end immediately. Current politicians act like they have a blank check on the taxes generated from future generations. This is wrong.

There are three branches of the federal government created specifically to balance power and prevent the types of overreach we see through executive orders. We did not elect a king. In fact, we threw off King George and I will fight to make sure no president tries to unilaterally run this country. Our president should be a shining example of liberty and freedom — not a rogue cowboy that does whatever he wants with impunity.

Our borders must be protected. Our country is just like your home, you have the right to decide who comes in and out. If someone acts inappropriately or criminally, you can remove that person and the criminal justice system can deal with them. Our country is also a nation of immigrants. The melting pot. The American dream lives: you can work hard, study hard, create value and build a great life for you and your family. We should welcome those who want to add to our great country and bring their talent and work ethic here. We should not lure immigrants here with welfare programs that create an incentive for them to come here and live off the populace. Let us make it easy to welcome good, hard working people into our country.

Our economy must be strong in order for our wealth to grow. Every American should pay as little taxes as possible. I will fight to make sure that every dollar is held accountable and stop boondoggle spending that benefits business at the expense of the taxpayer. Every dollar you send to Washington is one that your family doesn’t have. I vow to put every dollar I can back in your pocket. You earned it, you deserve it.