And if so, why? As this post gets written, House Republicans appear on track to have at least a five-seat majority, perhaps even a seven-seat majority or even better. Adding a flip to that would amount to a very light gilding of a very small lily.
Yet, that’s what Kevin McCarthy’s allies attempted over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reports today. Perhaps McCarthy and/or his allies were a bit nervous over the outcome of the outstanding House races … or of his chances in leadership elections:
Allies of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) made multiple calls to Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas over the weekend and asked him if he would switch parties to expand the GOP majority, according to five people familiar with the calls. …
One person said Mr. Cuellar, who sits on the powerful appropriations committee, was offered committee positions and asked what it would take for him to switch.
Mr. Cuellar turned them down, according to multiple people.
McCarthy denies having a hand in the effort, which isn’t exactly a denial that the effort took place:
A spokesman for Mr. McCarthy said the calls weren’t made at the request of Mr. McCarthy. “Anyone suggesting this is simply exercising in fan fiction,” said spokesman Mark Bednar. “Leader McCarthy is going to be elected speaker by the current and newly-elected members of the House Republican Conference. Our efforts are exclusively focused on bringing our conference together and saving the country,” he said.
In some ways, this makes sense — but mostly for Cuellar. Republicans would have to offer Cuellar some concessions to get him to flip, such as a committee or subcommittee chair that a backbencher Republican might have wanted instead. If the flip resulted in Republican control, that might be worth it to the backbencher, as it would make his/her vote much more consequential for the entire session. If all it does is pad a lead, though, it might not be a terribly popular trade.
For Cuellar, though, the offer would look more attractive. Assuming a concession was valuable enough, it would allow Cuellar a fresh start in Texas. He’s already an outlier among House Democrats and an unwelcome one at that, opposing abortion and demanding action from the Biden administration on the border crisis. His party tried to push him out of office with an ill-conceived progressive challenge that likely would have made the seat Republican had it succeeded, just as happened in Oregon when progressives defeated Kurt Schrader in his D+2 OR-5 district. Republicans won it for the first time in 26 years.
So why stick around? Frankly, it’s a mystery, although the D+5 advantage in his district might explain it. Cuellar probably figures that running as a Democrat may do better in 2024, although if Joe Biden’s at the top of the ticket, I’m not convinced that will be the case. Maybe his caucus leadership has offered him some incentives to stay, such as …. I don’t know, promising not to stab him in the back again?
It does remind us, though, that recruitment has not stopped in the Beltway. And if Herschel Walker wins his runoff election on December 6, Joe Manchin gets to play Let’s Make a Deal — one that really matters to him and to everyone else in Washington.
Update: I guess we don’t have to call this too fun to check any more. Cuellar himself confirmed the story a little while ago:
Cuellar on Tuesday clarified that McCarthy did not approach him directly, but at least four other Republicans did, he said, including “one member, a couple folks from K Street [and] a former member.”
He did not name names. …
They did not offer him anything specific, such as a committee chairmanship, Cuellar said, but instead extended him an open-ended enticement.
His response was simple. “No, thank you,” he said.
I wonder if he’ll live to regret that.
Update: The latest episode of The Ed Morrissey Show podcast is now up! Today’s show features:
- “What the hell happened in the midterms?” asked Andrew Malcolm at RedState.com, and we try to answer that in our discussion. What lessons can we learn from Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump?
- Plus, my editorial for Salem Now on getting what we needed, and a reminder about the necessity of learning lessons for 2024.