House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) needled House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Sunday, suggesting the GOP leader could solicit support from Democrats in his quest for the Speakership despite the California Republican saying he will not look to the other side of the aisle to win the leadership role.
Clyburn, speaking with Jonathan Capehart on MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show,” said that while he thinks McCarthy will secure the Speaker’s gavel next month, if enough Republicans refuse to give their support, the GOP leader could look to Democrats for the necessary votes.
“If there are seven or eight people who are not going to vote for him, then I would advise him to go and look on the other side of the aisle and see whether or not there are some deals over there to be made as well,” Clyburn said.
Asked what kind of deals he had in mind, Clyburn, who will serve as assistant Democratic leader in the next Congress, said, “I think that if we could sit down together, we might be able to forge an agenda that would be acceptable to 218 people.”
He said McCarthy and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who was recently elected to be the next House Democratic leader, should discuss potential areas of bipartisan cooperation.
“Sit down with Hakeem Jeffries and talk about the future of this country, talk about doing as many things as we possibly can in a bipartisan way. That’s how you do it,” Clyburn said when pressed. “You bring votes to the table. We bring votes to the table. Let’s see what we can do about fashioning a bipartisan approach to making this country’s greatness accessible and affordable for all of its citizens.”
“What’s wrong with that?” he added.
Clyburn’s comments come as several House Republicans remain opposed to McCarthy’s push for Speaker, threatening to derail his bid. The House GOP conference chose him as its nominee for the top job in a closed-door vote last month, but he will need to secure support from at least half of the members voting during January’s floor vote.
Five conservative Republicans have already said or strongly indicated they will oppose McCarthy — Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Bob Good (Va.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Ralph Norman (S.C.) and Matt Rosendale (Mont.) — putting his bid for the Speakership on thin ice as Republicans enter a narrow majority next month. A number of other hard-line conservative lawmakers have not yet said how they will vote during next month’s floor vote.
The GOP will likely have 222 seats in the House compared to Democrats’ 213, giving McCarthy little wiggle room, assuming no Democrats support his bid.
But the Republican leader has already said he does not want support from Democrats in his quest for the Speaker’s gavel. Asked at a press conference last month, after winning the Speaker nomination, if he wants Democrats to try to support him, McCarthy said no.
“We’re the majority as Republicans, and we’ll get there as Republicans,” he told reporters.
McCarthy beat Biggs to secure the Speakership nomination in a 188-31 vote. Some lawmakers, particularly those from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, are withholding support to push for rules changes that would empower individual members in the conference.