By Sam Fossum and Sarah Fortinsky, CNN
GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois lambasted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday, saying he does not think the California Republican will last long if he’s elected House speaker next year.
“I think he has cut so many deals with bad people to get to this position that I think he’s not going to be a leader at all. I think he’ll be completely hostage to kind of the extreme wings of the Republican Party,” Kinzinger, who is retiring from Congress, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “And I frankly don’t think he’s going to last very long.”
“It’s sad to see a man that I think has so much potential, just totally sell himself — he’s the one that resurrected Donald Trump the second he went to Mar-a-Lago, like a week or two after January 6,” added Kinzinger, a noted Trump critic.
House Republicans voted last week for McCarthy to continue leading their conference following an underwhelming midterm election performance. While Republicans had anticipated big gains in the House earlier this month, they are currently on track to only hold a slim majority.
But McCarthy beat back a long-shot challenge to his leadership position by Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, a former chairman of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus. Biggs received 31 votes to McCarthy’s 188, according to multiple sources in the room. It was a secret ballot, and McCarthy only needed support from a simple majority of the conference to prevail. In January, however, McCarthy must win 218 votes, or a majority of the House, to become speaker.
Kinzinger also warned on Sunday that he wouldn’t be surprised if McCarthy had to make deals with Democrats in order to get things done in the next Congress, with more hard-line elements of the House GOP newly empowered by the party’s narrow majority.
“I would not be surprised if Kevin McCarthy has to cut deals with Democrats, which is something he needs to keep in mind, because he’s not going to get 218 votes for everything he wants to pass, including government funding,” Kinzinger said.
Ryan supports McCarthy, opposes Trump
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan expressed confidence in McCarthy to become the next speaker, saying in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, “There isn’t anybody better suited to running this conference than Kevin McCarthy.”
“He’s been good for conservatives, frankly. But he’s also a person who really understands how to manage a conference,” the Wisconsin Republican added.
Ryan backed McCarthy’s plan to conduct oversight of the Justice Department and of the president’s son, Hunter Biden, but added, “That’s not a substitute for an agenda.”
He applauded current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “impressive legacy,” saying, “She has an incredible legacy and career to look back on.”
Ryan blamed Donald Trump for Republicans’ disappointing performance this election cycle and predicted that the former president would not win the GOP nomination in 2024, saying, “It’s pretty clear. With Trump, we lose.”
“The evidence is really clear. The biggest factor was the Trump factor,” he said when asked to reflect on his prediction that Republicans would pick up 15 seats. “It’s palpable right now. We get past Trump, we start winning elections. We stick with Trump, we keep losing elections.”
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CNN’s Stephen Collinson contributed to this report.