As the leader of the House Republicans and perhaps the chamber’s next Speaker, Kevin McCarthy has among the most impossible jobs in Washington: guiding his party to this fall’s midterm elections while also navigating former President Donald Trump’s near total hold on the GOP.
That’s not to say his critics don’t have valid fodder, starting with McCarthy’s complete climbdown from initially suggesting Trump resign in the wake of a failed insurrection and his subsequent supplication to the former President that continues to this day. But McCarthy’s fealty to Trump reflects the broader attitude inside the current Republican Party. As such, McCarthy is the former President’s most powerful proxy.
Leading a political minority is seldom an invitation to make meaningful contributions, but driving it back to a majority typically opens plenty of opportunities. Republicans may soon be back with gavels and asking themselves if McCarthy is the best choice to run the House for the final two years of Joe Biden’s first term.
Elliott is a TIME senior Washington correspondent
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