House Majority Leader - History

House Majority Leader - History

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House majority leader - prominent position in the majority party, second only to the Speaker of the House in party authority. Like the Senate majority leader, the House majority leader helps promote the legislative agenda of the party in the House.

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Congressional Majority and Minority Leaders and Whips

While the excruciating battles of partisan politics slow the work of Congress - often to a crawl, the legislative process would probably cease to function at all without the efforts of the House and Senate majority and minority party leaders and whips. Often, agents of contention, the congressional party leaders are, more importantly, agents of compromise.

Intent on separating politics from government, the Founding Fathers, after what was truly a "Great Compromise," established only a basic framework of the legislative branch in the Constitution. The only congressional leadership positions created in the Constitution are the Speaker of the House in Article I, Section 2, and the President of the Senate (the Vice President of the United States) in Article I, Section 3.

In Article I, the Constitution empowers the House and Senate to choose their "other Officers." Over the years, those officers have evolved into the party majority and minority leaders, and floor whips.

With 435 members, compared to the Senate’s 100 members, the House majority and minority leaders exercise more political power over their membership than their Senate counterparts. With 435 people—including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—trying to make mutually agreeable decisions together, House leaders must forcefully, yet diplomatically, coordinate the lawmaking process. In both the House and Senate, the political parties choose all top leadership positions.

Majority and minority leaders are paid a slightly higher annual salary than rank-and-file members of the House and Senate.


Hoyer was born in New York City, New York, and grew up in Mitchellville, Maryland, the son of Jean (née Baldwin) and Steen Theilgaard Høyer. His father was Danish and a native of Copenhagen "Steny" is a variant of his father's name, "Steen". [6] His mother was an American, with Scottish, German, and English ancestry, and a descendant of John Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. [7] He graduated from Suitland High School in Suitland, Maryland.

In his early years at the University of Maryland College Park, Hoyer held a 1.9 grade point average. His attitude towards school and politics changed after hearing a speech from then Senator John F. Kennedy before his election in 1960. [ citation needed ] In 1963, Hoyer received his B.A. degree magna cum laude and graduated Omicron Delta Kappa from the University of Maryland, College Park. He was also a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. [8] He earned his J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., in 1966. [8]

For four years, from 1962 to 1966, Hoyer was a member of the staff of United States Senator Daniel Brewster (D-Maryland) also on Senator Brewster's staff at that time was Nancy Pelosi, who would later become a leadership colleague of Hoyer, as she served as Minority Leader and Speaker of the House while he was Minority Whip and Majority Leader, respectively. [9]

In 1966, Hoyer won a newly created seat in the Maryland State Senate, representing Prince George's County-based Senate district 4C. [10] The district, created in the aftermath of Reynolds v. Sims, was renumbered as the 26th district in 1975, [8] [11] the same year that Hoyer was elected President of the Maryland State Senate, the youngest in state history. [12]

From 1969 to 1971, Hoyer served as the first vice president of the Young Democrats of America. [13]

In 1978, Hoyer sought the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Maryland as the running mate of then acting Governor Blair Lee III, but he lost to Samuel Bogley 37%–34%. [14] In the same year, Hoyer was appointed to the Maryland Board of Higher Education, a position he served in until 1981. [8]

Elections Edit

Fifth district Congresswoman Gladys Spellman fell into a coma three days before the 1980 election. She was reelected, but it soon became apparent that she would never regain consciousness, and Congress declared her seat vacant by resolution in February 1981. Hoyer narrowly won a crowded seven-way Democratic primary, beating Spellman's husband Reuben by only 1,600 votes. He then defeated a better-funded Republican, Audrey Scott, in the May 19 special election by 56%–44%, earning himself the nickname of "boy wonder". [15] [16] [17] In the 1982 general election, Hoyer won reelection to his first full term with 80% of the vote. [18] He has faced only one relatively close contest since then, when he defeated future Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan with just 53% of the vote in 1992. [19] His second worst performance was his 1996 bid against Republican State Delegate John Morgan, when he won reelection with 57% of the vote. [20] Hoyer has been reelected 14 times with no substantive opposition, and is the longest-serving House member ever from southern Maryland. [12]

Tenure Edit

Domestic issues Edit

Hoyer supports and has led on the Make It In America plan linking domestic manufacturing industry and overall US economic success. [21]

Hoyer is pro-choice on abortion rights. [22] He voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003. Hoyer supports affirmative action and LGBT rights. Hoyer is rated F by the NRA, indicating a pro-gun-control voting record.

In 2008, Hoyer said he opposed providing immunity to telecom companies, but then negotiated a bill, described by Senators Patrick Leahy and Russ Feingold as a "capitulation", that would provide immunity to any telecom company [23] that had been told by the Bush administration that their actions were legal. [24] [25] [26] "No matter how they spin it, this is still immunity," said Kevin Bankston, a senior lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy rights group that has sued over President George W. Bush's wiretapping program. "It's not compromise, it's pure theater." [27]

In a 2009 USA Today opinion piece regarding healthcare reform, Steny Hoyer wrote that "[d]rowning out opposing views is simply un-American." [28]

In June 2010, Hoyer brought up the idea that Congress would extend only temporarily middle-class tax cuts that were set to expire at the end of the year, suggesting that making them permanent would cost too much. President Obama wanted to extend them permanently for individuals making less than $200,000 a year and families making less than $250,000. [29]

Hoyer voted against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1999. In 2019, Hoyer voted for the impeachment of President Trump. [30] In 2021, Hoyer voted for the second impeachment of President Trump.

In February 2021, Hoyer made a passionate speech in Congress which has been viewed online more than two million times, criticising an incendiary Facebook post by new Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. The post featured a gun-toting Greene next to three members of the "Squad"— congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, with the caption "Democrats' Worst Nightmare". In his speech he compared Greene's words with those of Republican Congressman Steve King, who was removed from the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees in 2019 after comments he made to the New York Times questioning why white supremacy was considered offensive. Hoyer made the point that Taylor Greene's words both in that post and other posts she had made promoting baseless conspiracy theories, were far more offensive and incendiary than the comment which led Republicans to strip King of his committee roles. He asked his colleagues to on both sides of the aisle to 'do the decent thing' and strip Taylor Greene of her committee roles. The eventual vote succeeded, but only eleven Republicans joined Democrats to pass the motion by 230-199 to remove. [31]

Foreign issues Edit

Hoyer supports civilian nuclear cooperation with India. [32]

Hoyer initially supported the Iraq War and was even recognized by the DLC for his vocal leadership on this issue. After the war became publicly unpopular, Hoyer said he favored a "responsible redeployment". [33] However, he has repeatedly supported legislation to continue funding for the war without deadlines for troop withdrawal, most recently in return for increased funding of domestic projects. [34]

Hoyer is a supporter of Israel, and has often been allied with American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In September 2007, he criticized Rep. Jim Moran for suggesting that AIPAC "has pushed (the Iraq) war from the beginning", calling the comment "factually inaccurate." [35] In January 2017, Hoyer voted for a House resolution condemning the UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which called Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories a flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace. [36] Hoyer supported President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. [37]

Hoyer has stated that a nuclear Iran is "unacceptable" and that the use of force remains an option. [38]

In January 2019, Hoyer opposed President Donald Trump's planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan as "impulsive, irresponsible, and dangerous." [39] Hoyer supports former President Obama's call for authorizing limited but decisive military action in response to the Assad regime's alleged use of chemical weapons.

Legislation Edit

On February 28, 2014, Hoyer introduced the bill To amend the National Law Enforcement Museum Act to extend the termination date (H.R. 4120 113th Congress) into the United States House of Representatives. [40] The bill would extend until November 9, 2016, the authority of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization, to construct a museum on federal lands within the District of Columbia honoring law enforcement officers. [41]

Fundraising Edit

Hoyer is a prolific fundraiser for House Democrats. He has been the top giver to fellow party members in the House. In the 2008 election cycle, he contributed more than $1 million to the party and individual candidates as of July 14, 2008. [42]

Party leadership Edit

Hoyer has served as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, the fourth-ranking position among House Democrats, from 1989 to 1994 the former co-chair (and a current member) of the Democratic Steering Committee and as the chief candidate recruiter for House Democrats from 1995 to 2000. He also served as Deputy Majority Whip from 1987 to 1989. [8]

When David E. Bonior resigned as Minority Whip in early 2002, Hoyer ran but lost to Nancy Pelosi. After the 2002 midterm elections, Pelosi ran to succeed Dick Gephardt as Minority Leader, leaving the Minority Whip post open again. [43] On November 14, 2002, Hoyer was unanimously elected by his colleagues in the Democratic Caucus to serve as the Minority Whip, the second-highest-ranking position among House Democrats. [12]

Pelosi became the Speaker of the House in January 2007. Hoyer was elected by his colleagues to be House Majority Leader for the 110th Congress, defeating John Murtha of Pennsylvania by a vote of 149–86 within the caucus, despite Pelosi endorsing Murtha. [2] [44] Hoyer is the first Marylander to become Majority Leader. [45] and became the highest-ranking federal lawmaker in Maryland history. [12] In this post, Hoyer was the floor leader of the House Democrats and ranked second in the leadership after the Speaker who is the actual head of the majority party in the house.

The day after the 2010 midterm elections in which the Democrats lost control of the House, Hoyer had a private conversation with Pelosi and stated that he would not challenge her bid for Minority Leader (for Pelosi to remain Democratic House Leader). [46] He ran for minority whip, but was challenged by outgoing Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (the top House Democrats wanted to remain in the leadership, but the minority party in the House has one less position). Hoyer is moderate while Pelosi and Clyburn are more liberal, and a significant number of Hoyer's would-be supporters in the House who were moderate and conservative Democrats had been defeated for reelection. [47] [48] [49] The Congressional Black Caucus backed Clyburn, while 30 House Democrats have supported Hoyer, and Hoyer has also raised money and campaigned for many candidates. [50] [51] Hoyer received further support from outgoing Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, and outgoing Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman [52] Pelosi intervened in the contest by supporting Hoyer as Minority Whip, while creating an "Assistant Leader" position for Clyburn which would keep him as the third-ranking Democrat in the House behind Pelosi and Hoyer (the existing "Assistant to the Leader" post formerly held by Chris Van Hollen is not officially part of the House leadership and was directly appointed by the Minority Leader). [53] [54]

Hoyer and the DCCC have been criticized for picking their preferred candidates through an undemocratic process. In 2018, it was reported that Hoyer sought to influence the primary race in Colorado's 6th congressional district. Hoyer was recorded urging progressive candidate Levi Tillemann to drop out of the race. Hoyer acknowledged that the DCCC had already identified its choice candidate and discouraged a candid discussion about his weaknesses. [55] On November 28, 2018, Hoyer was selected to return as House Majority Leader. [4] [5]

Year Office Election Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1981 Congress, 5th district Special Steny Hoyer Democratic 42,573 55.81 Audrey Scott Republican 33,708 44.19
1982 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 83,937 79.58 William Guthrie Republican 21,533 20.42
1984 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 116,310 72.18 John Ritchie Republican 44,839 27.82
1986 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 82,098 81.93 John Sellner Republican 18,102 18.07
1988 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 128,437 78.63 John Sellner Republican 34,909 21.37
1990 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 84,747 80.66 Lee Breuer Republican 20,314 19.34
1992 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 113,280 55.0 Larry J. Hogan, Jr. Republican 92,636 45.0
1994 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 98,821 58.81 Donald Devine Republican 69,211 41.19
1996 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 121,288 56.92 John S. Morgan Republican 91,806 43.08
1998 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 126,792 65.37 Robert Ostrom Republican 67,176 34.36
2000 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 166,231 65.09 Thomas Hutchins Republican 89,019 34.86
2002 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 137,903 69.27 Joseph Crawford Republican 60,758 30.52
2004 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 204,867 68.67 Brad Jewitt Republican 87,189 29.93 Bob Auerbach Green 4,224 1.42
2006 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 168,114 82.69 Steve Warner Green 33,464 16.46 Write Ins: P.Kuhnert and Other 635 1,110 0.86
2008 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 253,854 73.6 Collins Bailey Republican 82,631 24.0 Darlene Nicholas Libertarian 7,829 2.3
2010 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 143,620 64.3 Charles Lollar Republican 79,122 35.6 H. Gavin Shickle Libertarian 2,399 1.1
2012 [58] Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 238,618 69.4 Tony O'Donnell Republican 95,271 27.7 Bob Auerbach Green 5,040 1.5 Arvin Vohra Libertarian 4,503 1.3
2014 [59] Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 144,725 64.0 Chris Chafee Republican 80,752 35.7 Write-ins 563 0.2
2016 [60] Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 242,989 67.4 Mark Arness Republican 105,931 29.4 Jason Summers Libertarian 11,078 3.1 Write-ins 606 0.2
2018 Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 213,796 70.3 William Devine III Republican 82,361 27.1 Patrick Elder Green 4,082 1.3 Write-ins 279 0.1
2020 [61] Congress, 5th district General Steny Hoyer Democratic 274,210 68.8 Chris Palombi Republican 123,525 31.0 write-ins 1,104 0.3

Hoyer has three daughters, Anne, Susan, and Stefany, from his marriage to Judy Pickett Hoyer, who died of cancer in February 1997. [1] In 2012, after Hoyer announced his support of same-sex marriage, his daughter Stefany Hoyer Hemmer came out as a lesbian in an interview with the Washington Blade. [62]

His wife was an advocate of early childhood education, and child development learning centers in Maryland have been named in her honor ("Judy Centers"). [63] She also suffered from epilepsy, and the Epilepsy Foundation of America sponsors an annual public lecture in her name. [64] Hoyer, too, has been an advocate for research in this area, and the Epilepsy Foundation presented him in 2002 with their Congressional Leadership Award. [65]

Hoyer serves on the Board of Trustees for St. Mary's College of Maryland [8] and is a member of the board of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a nonprofit that supports international elections. [66] He is also an Advisory Board Member for the Center for the Study of Democracy. [67]


McCarthy was born on January 26, 1965, in Bakersfield, California, [8] the son of Roberta Darlene (née Palladino November 16, 1940–), [9] a homemaker, and Owen McCarthy (June 12, 1941 – January 28, 2000), [10] [11] an assistant city fire chief. [12] [13] McCarthy is a fourth-generation resident of Kern County. His maternal grandfather was an Italian immigrant, and his paternal grandfather was Irish. [14] McCarthy is the first Republican in his immediate family, as his parents were members of the Democratic Party. [15] [16] He attended California State University, Bakersfield, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in marketing in 1989 and a Master of Business Administration in 1994. [17]

As a teen, his uncle allowed him to open a small deli stand inside of the family's yogurt store. McCarthy has cited this experience to call himself a small business owner. [18]

McCarthy served on the staff of Congressman Bill Thomas from 1987 to 2002. [17] In 1995, he was chairman of the California Young Republicans. From 1999 to 2001, he was chairman of the Young Republican National Federation. [16] From the late 1990s until 2000, he was Thomas's district director. [17] McCarthy won his first election in 2000, as a Kern Community College District trustee. [17]

McCarthy was elected to the California State Assembly in 2002. [17] He became the Republican floor leader in 2003. [17] He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2006. [17] [19]

Elections Edit

2006 Edit

McCarthy entered the Republican primary for California's 22nd District after his former boss, Bill Thomas, [20] retired. He won the three-way Republican primary — the real contest in this heavily Republican district — with 85 percent of the vote. [21] He then won the general election with 70.7% of the vote. [22] [23]

2008 Edit

McCarthy was unopposed for a second term. [24]

2010 Edit

No party put up a challenger, and McCarthy won a third term with 98.8% of the vote, with opposition coming only from a write-in candidate. [25]

2012 Edit

Redistricting before the 2012 election resulted in McCarthy's district being renumbered as the 23rd District. It became somewhat more compact, losing its share of the Central Coast while picking up large parts of Tulare County. This district was as heavily Republican as its predecessor, and McCarthy won a fourth term with 73.2% of the vote vs. 26.8% for independent, No Party Preference (NPP) opponent, Terry Phillips. [26] The district is based in Bakersfield and includes large sections of Kern and Tulare counties, as well as part of the Quartz Hill community in northwest Los Angeles County.

2014 Edit

In his bid for a fifth term, McCarthy faced a Democratic challenger for the first time since his initial run for the seat, Raul Garcia. However, McCarthy was reelected with 74.8% of the vote. [27]

2016 Edit

McCarthy won re-election to a sixth term in 2016 with 69.2% of the vote in the general election the opposing candidate, Wendy Reed, Democratic Party candidate, received 30.8% of the vote. [28]

2018 Edit

McCarthy was reelected to a seventh term with 64.3 percent of the vote, with Democratic challenger Tatiana Matta receiving 35.7 percent of the vote. [29]

After the Republicans lost their majority in the 2018 elections, McCarthy was elected as House Minority Leader, fending off a challenge to his right from Jim Jordan of Ohio, 159–43.

2020 Edit

McCarthy was reelected to an eighth term with 62.1 percent of the vote, with Democratic challenger Kim Mangone receiving 37.9 percent of the vote.

Tenure Edit

Committee assignments Edit

Party leadership Edit

Early leadership posts Edit

As a freshman congressman, McCarthy was appointed to the Republican Steering committee. Republican leader John Boehner appointed him chairman of the Republican platform committee during the committee's meetings in Minneapolis in August 2008, which produced the Republican Party Platform for 2008. He was also one of the three founding members of the GOP Young Guns Program. [31]

After the 2008 elections, he was chosen as chief deputy minority whip, the highest-ranking appointed position in the House Republican Conference. His predecessor, Eric Cantor, was named minority whip.

House majority whip Edit

On November 17, 2010, he was selected by the House Republican Conference to be the House majority whip in the 112th Congress. In this post, he was the third-ranking House Republican, behind House speaker John Boehner and majority leader Eric Cantor.

In August 2011, McCarthy and Cantor led a group of 30 Republican members of Congress to Israel, where some members took part in a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee, including one member — Representative Kevin Yoder of Kansas — who swam nude. [32] When McCarthy and Cantor later found out about the swim, they "were furious" and worried about negative news coverage, and "called a members-only meeting the next morning to reprimand the group – both those who swam and those who abstained." [32]

In 2012, McCarthy's office reported spending $99,000 on pastries, bottled water, and other food items, making him the highest-spending member of the House in this category. [33]

House majority leader Edit

Cantor lost the June 2014 primary for his seat in Congress, and announced he would step down from House leadership at the end of July. McCarthy sought to succeed Cantor, and after some speculation that representatives Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling would challenge him, both dropped out leaving a clear path for McCarthy to become House majority leader. [34] On June 13, representative Raul Labrador announced he would also seek the leadership position. [35] On June 19, the Republican Conference elected McCarthy as majority leader. [36] [37]

According to the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, McCarthy is the least-tenured majority leader in the history of the House of Representatives. When he assumed the position in July 2014, he had served only seven years, six months and 29 days, the least experience of any floor leader in the House's history by more than a year. [38]

McCarthy kept four of his predecessor's staff members on his staff when he took over as majority leader, including deputy chief of staff Neil Bradley, who now has served in that role for three majority leaders. [39]

McCarthy has been under fire for avoiding meetings and town-hall events with constituents in his congressional district for years. [40] [41] [42] His last town hall was in June 2010. [43] He has opted for screened telephone calls since. [44]

In December 2017, McCarthy voted in favor of the House Republican tax legislation. [45] After the vote, McCarthy asked his constituents to "Come February, check your check, because that will be the pay raise of the vote for Donald Trump." [46]

Unsuccessful 2015 candidacy for speaker of the House Edit

On September 25, 2015, John Boehner decided to resign as Speaker effective October 30, 2015. Many media outlets speculated that McCarthy would likely replace him, [47] and Boehner himself stated that McCarthy "would make an excellent speaker." [48] He was the presumptive successor to the outgoing Speaker. [49] On September 28, McCarthy formally announced his candidacy. [50] Having held congressional office for less than nine years, McCarthy would have been the Speaker with the least time in Congress since 1891. [51]

In a September 29, 2015, interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity, McCarthy was asked what the Republicans had accomplished in Congress. He replied by talking about the House of Representatives' special panel investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attack (in which Islamic militants attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya). Republicans said the purpose of the government-funded committee was purely to investigate the deaths of four Americans. [52] But McCarthy said, "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought." [53] The comment was seen as an admission that the investigation was a partisan political undertaking rather than a substantive inquiry. [54] [55] [56] [57] Some commentators described his remark as a classic "Kinsley gaffe" (defined as when a politician accidentally tells the truth). [58] the remark was also described as a "saying the quiet part loud" gaffe. [59] Several days later, McCarthy apologized for the remarks and said that the Benghazi panel was not a political initiative. [60] [61]

On October 8, 2015, as Republicans were preparing to vote, McCarthy unexpectedly dropped out of the race, saying that Republicans needed a fresh face who could unite the caucus and "I am not that guy." [62] He reportedly dropped out after concluding that he did not have the 218 votes that would be required to be elected Speaker. [60] McCarthy remained majority leader. [62] [60] The Benghazi gaffe contributed to his decision to withdraw from the race, [59] [62] which McCarthy acknowledged in announcing his withdrawal. [62] Previously, Representative Walter B. Jones Jr. had sent a letter to the Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers stating that any candidates for a leadership position with "misdeeds" should withdraw from the race. Jones has stated that his comment did not specifically refer to McCarthy. [63] It was widely seen as referring to rumors that McCarthy had an extramarital affair with fellow Representative, Renee Ellmers, a rumor that both have denied the basis for such an allegation and interpretation is unclear. [64] [65] [66]

House Republican Leader Edit

After the Republicans lost their majority in the 2018 elections, McCarthy was elected as House Minority Leader, fending off a challenge to his right from Jim Jordan of Ohio, 159–43. As Minority Leader he is in charge of the House Republicans. [3] [67]

McCarthy continues as a strong supporter of Donald Trump, starting in 2016. [68] As minority leader, McCarthy remained a close Trump ally, keeping the Republican caucus unified in support of Trump and against his impeachment on two articles of impeachment arising from the Trump-Ukraine scandal. [59] McCarthy associated with key figures in Trump's effort to enlist the Ukrainian government in discrediting Joe Biden, Trump's political opponent such figures included Lev Parnas, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Robert F. Hyde. [59]

Like Trump, McCarthy supported Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican candidate in 2020 for a U.S. House seat from northwest Georgia Greene's past racist, anti-Semitic comments and her promotion of QAnon (a far-right conspiracy theory) led other Republicans to distance themselves from her. [68] [69] McCarthy did not take steps to thwart Greene's candidacy, and did not endorse her opponent in the Republican primary runoff election. [68] After Greene was nominated, McCarthy denounced the fringe conspiracy—saying "There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party"—and said that Greene had distanced herself from her earlier statements. [70] In 2020, McCarthy was asked about Trump's false claims that Joe Scarborough (an MSNBC host and former Republican congressman) was linked to the death of a staff member while a few House Republicans criticized Trump for his use of inflammatory and false rhetoric, McCarthy declined to take a position. [71]

In May 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, McCarthy and House Republicans filed a lawsuit to stop the House of Representatives from allowing remote proxy voting by representatives, a measure that had been introduced under Speaker Nancy Pelosi to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the Capitol. [72] [73] McCarthy and the other plaintiffs claimed that a quorum of members had to be physically present in the chamber to conduct business Pelosi defended the rule as a critical public health measure and pointed to the provision of the Constitution authorizing each chamber of Congress to establish its own procedural rules. [73] In August 2020, a federal judge dismissed McCarthy's lawsuit against Pelosi, ruling that the House has "absolute immunity from civil suit" under the Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause. [73]

In November 2020, in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, McCarthy falsely insisted on Laura Ingraham's television show that "President Trump won this election"—echoing Trump's own claim—even as vote-counting was ongoing in several states. [74] [75] McCarthy insinuated that large-scale voter fraud would lead Trump to lose, saying "Everyone who is listening: Do not be quiet. Do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes." [76] [77]

In December 2020, McCarthy was one of 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives who signed an amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit filed at the United States Supreme Court contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election. [78] Joe Biden prevailed over incumbent Donald Trump when the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, on the basis that Texas lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge the results of the election held by another state. [79] [80] [81] In March 2021, McCarthy denied he had supported Trump’s false claims of election fraud, though he had supported Texas v. Pennsylvania that sought to overturn voting results in four states and voted in favor of a House resolution to overturn voting results in two states. [82]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that called signing the amicus brief an act of "election subversion." Additionally, Pelosi reprimanded McCarthy and the other House members who supported the lawsuit: "The 126 Republican Members that signed onto this lawsuit brought dishonor to the House. Instead of upholding their oath to support and defend the Constitution, they chose to subvert the Constitution and undermine public trust in our sacred democratic institutions." [83] [84] New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell, citing section three of the 14th Amendment, called for Pelosi to not seat McCarthy and the other Republicans who signed the brief supporting the suit. Pascrell argued that "the text of the 14th Amendment expressly forbids Members of Congress from engaging in rebellion against the United States. Trying to overturn a democratic election and install a dictator seems like a pretty clear example of that." [85]

On January 6, 2021, hours after the storming of the Capitol, McCarthy voted against certifying Biden's win in two states. [86] [87] Cook Political Report House editor Dave Wasserman later reported that McCarthy had told him on several occasions prior to this vote that he knew Biden had won. [88] [89] He later denied that this was a vote to overturn the election, because Biden would still have won without those two states. He finally recognized Biden as the president-elect on January 8, more than two months after the election. [90]

A week after the storming, McCarthy delivered a speech in which he held Trump partially responsible for the riots. He emphasized the fact that Trump failed to intervene after the initial TV footage, showing the demonstration evolving in a violent assault. [91] He later said that he did not believe Trump had provoked the mob. On January 28 McCarthy paid a solo visit to the ex-president in his Mar-a-Lago residence. Officially the topic was said to be "regaining the lost votes in the mid-term elections of 2022", but it was widely reported as an attempt to mend fences with Trump and lessen the tensions within the Republican party. [92] [93]

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler stated during the time of second impeachment trial of Donald Trump that the then-president said to McCarthy during the ongoing attack on the Capitol by rioters: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” [94] She wasn't called as a witness but her statement was included in the impeachment documents.

In April 2021, prior to closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial, Maxine Walters said, "I hope we’re going to get a verdict that will say guilty, guilty, guilty. And if we don’t, we cannot go away”. She further stated that they need to get "more confrontational". Following those comments, McCarthy said, "Waters is inciting violence in Minneapolis – just as she has incited it in the past. If Speaker Pelosi doesn’t act against this dangerous rhetoric, I will bring action this week”. [95] [96] [97] [98]

Because of her stance on the Capitol riot, her vote to impeach Trump and vocal opposition to his false stolen election narrative, in early 2021 pro-Trump Freedom Caucus House members attempted to remove Liz Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference, the third-ranking position in the Republican House leadership. The initial effort failed, but growing numbers of House Republicans supported her removal McCarthy agreed to a party vote in May, resulting in Cheney's ouster. Hours after the vote, McCarthy stated, "I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election," though a CNN poll released days earlier found that 70% of Republicans did believe the false stolen election narrative. [99] [4] [100] [101] [102] [103]

McCarthy announced on May 18, 2021, that he is now opposed to the bipartisan agreement in the House to form an independent commission to investigate the storming of the Capitol. McCarthy had asked Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) member of his whip team, to negotiate with Democrats on the caucus’s behalf regarding the commission. McCarthy specified to Katko what he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted, and successfully got almost everything he asked for. [104] McCarthy also stated that the scope of any investigation should include other events of political violence, which is possible with the terms negotiated. McCarthy is siding with other Republicans who had sought to downplay the matter and move on. [105]

Abortion Edit

In 2003, while minority leader in the state assembly, McCarthy "support[ed] most abortion rights, but oppose[d] spending tax dollars on abortions". [106] By 2015, however, McCarthy was according to The Washington Post "a staunch anti-abortion-rights advocate." [107] McCarthy is a supporter of the Hyde Amendment (a provision, annually renewed by Congress since 1976, that bans federal funds for abortion), and in 2011 co-sponsored a bill, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act", to make the Hyde Amendment permanent. [108] This bill was especially controversial because it provided an exemption for funding terminations of pregnancies caused by only "forcible rape", which prompted abortion-rights activists to call the bill a redefinition of rape. [108] McCarthy opposes a California state law that requires health insurance plans "to treat abortion coverage and maternity coverage neutrally and provide both", believing that this law violates the Weldon Amendment and other federal laws. [109] [110] [111] McCarthy received a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee, [112] and a 0% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. [113]

McCarthy has voted to strip about $500 million in federal funding for Planned Parenthood. [107]

COVID-19 Edit

On September 17, 2020, McCarthy voted against House Resolution 908 to condemn racism against Asian-Americans related to the COVID-19 pandemic. McCarthy said the resolution was, "a waste of time," and further that, "At the heart of this resolution is the absurd notion that referring to the virus as a Wuhan virus or the China virus is the same as contributing to violence against Asian Americans." [114] [115]

Donald Trump Edit

McCarthy was an early supporter of Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, saying that Trump's "intensity" could help the Republicans win House seats. [116] McCarthy also suggested in a private recording with GOP House leadership in 2016 that Putin pays Trump, which McCarthy said is a joke went wrong. [117]

After the 2018 mid-term elections, in which Democrats won a majority in the House, McCarthy said that Democrats should not investigate President Donald Trump. He described investigations of Trump as a "small agenda", and that "America's too great of a nation to have such a small agenda." He said that Trump had already been investigated "for a long period of time." McCarthy and other House Republicans investigated Hillary Clinton for years over the 2012 Benghazi attack. In 2015, McCarthy said that the investigation, which found no evidence of wrong-doing on Clinton's part, had hurt poll numbers. [118] [119] [120]

In 2019, McCarthy defended government officials spending money at resorts owned by President Trump. He said that there was no difference between government officials spending money at hotels owned by Trump and other hotels. [121]

In October 2019, McCarthy said "there's nothing that the president did wrong" in regard to President Trump requesting that the Ukrainian President start an investigation into 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. [122] McCarthy added, "the President wasn't investigating a campaign rival, the President was trying to get to the bottom, just as every American would want to know, why did we have this Russia hoax that actually started within Ukraine." [122]

That same month, when Trump said "China should start an investigation into the Bidens", McCarthy shortly thereafter went on Fox & Friends to say, "You watch what the president said — he's not saying China should investigate." [123]

Capitol riot and reaction Edit

In 2021, during the riot and storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, McCarthy said that "as a nation", "we all have some responsibility" for the event. [124] McCarthy himself had been among those Republicans, who in the weeks prior to the January 6th attack on Congressional offices, had spread false claims about the validity of the presidential election. [124] On January 13, McCarthy said that President Trump "bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding". However, McCarthy did not vote to impeach Trump for a second time, instead calling for a censure resolution against Trump for his role in the attack. [125] [126] [127] On January 21, McCarthy said he did not think that Trump "provoked" the storming. [124] Two days later, McCarthy said that Trump "had some responsibility when it came to the response", and then stressed his original position that all Americans "(have) some responsibility". [124] McCarthy has been criticized by Republicans for inconsistent statements regarding Trump after the attack. [128] Despite the condemnation, McCarthy visited Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort to discuss the future of the Republican Party. McCarthy released a statement that read in part, "Today, President Trump committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022". [129]

It was reported on February 12, that McCarthy called then President Donald Trump asking for help against the rioters during the insurrection. Trump refused to send the National Guard saying, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are". McCarthy responded "Who the f--k do you think you are talking to?". This was reported to CNN by multiple Republican members of congress including Jaime Herrera Beutler and Anthony Gonzalez. [130] [131]

On May 19, 2021, McCarthy and all the other Republican House leaders in the `117th Congress voted against establishing a National Commission to Investigate the January 6, 2021 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex to investigate the storming of the capitol. Thirty-five Republican House members and all 217 Democrats present voted to establish such a commission. [132] [133]

Environment Edit

McCarthy has been frequently at odds with environmental groups the League of Conservation Voters has given him a lifetime score of 3%, as of 2015. [134] [135] McCarthy does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change, as of 2014. [136] [137] He was a major opponent of President Obama's Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas from coal-fired power plants. [134] [137] He has opposed regulations on methane leaks from fossil-fuel drilling facilities, characterizing them as "bureaucratic and unnecessary.'" [134] In 2015, McCarthy opposed the U.S.'s involvement in global efforts to combat climate change as the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference began, McCarthy announced that he would oppose an international agreement on climate change. [138] [139] In 2017, McCarthy led House Republican efforts to use the Congressional Review Act to undo a number of environmental regulations enacted during the Obama administration. [140] While McCarthy once supported the federal wind-energy production tax credit, he opposed its extension in 2014. [136]

In 2011, McCarthy was the primary author of the "Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act" (H.R. 1581), legislation that would remove protected status designation from 60 million acres of public lands. Under the bill, protections for roadless and wilderness study areas would be eliminated, and vast swaths of land opened to new industrial development (such as logging, mineral extraction, and fossil fuel extraction). The bill was strongly criticized by conservationist groups and by former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. [141]

More recently, as House minority leader, McCarthy proposed several environmental bills designed to address climate change, which have been described as "narrow" and "modest". They include provisions to extend a tax credit for carbon capture technologies, and to plant trees. Responses from Republican representatives were mixed. Conservative groups including the Club for Growth, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the American Energy Alliance opposed the measures, while others such as ClearPath supported them. [142] McCarthy believes that younger voters are worried about climate change and cautioned that Republicans are risking their viability in elections over the long term by ignoring or denying the issue. [143] [144] He has said, "We’ve got to actually do something different than we’ve done to date [concerning climate change]. For a 28-year-old, the environment is the No. 1 and No. 2 issue." [143]

Finance Edit

In 2014, McCarthy opposed the renewal of the charter of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, as he expects the private sector to take over the role. [145]

Foreign policy Edit

McCarthy received campaign donations from Saudi Arabia's lobbyists. [146]

On June 15, 2016, McCarthy told a group of Republicans, "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God." Paul Ryan reminded colleagues the meeting was off the record, saying, "No leaks. This is how we know we're a real family here." [147] When asked about the comment, McCarthy's spokesman said that "the idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false." After a tape of the comment was made public in May 2017, McCarthy claimed it was "a bad attempt at a joke". [148]

In 2019, McCarthy had threatened to take "action" against two new Muslim congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who have sharply criticized the Israeli government's policies in the Palestinian territories and embraced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. McCarthy said that if Democrats "do not take action I think you'll see action from myself." [149]

McCarthy voiced support for Hong Kong protesters. He wrote that "the NBA seems more worried about losing business than standing up for freedom." [150]

In January 2020, after the United States assassinated a top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, McCarthy criticized his Democratic counterpart in the House, Nancy Pelosi, for "defending" Soleimani. [151]

McCarthy said he supported Israel's planned annexation of the West Bank. [152] He signed a letter addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that reaffirms "the unshakeable alliance between the United States and Israel". [153]

Health care Edit

As House majority leader, McCarthy led efforts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). [154] [155] In March 2017, the House Republican repeal legislation, the American Health Care Act, was pulled from the floor minutes before a scheduled vote. Following changes made during an internal Republican debate, the bill narrowly passed the House, 217–213, in a May 2017 party-line vote. [154] [156] [157] The House Republican leadership's decision to hold a vote on the legislation before receiving a budget-impact analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office was controversial. [157] [158] [159] The CBO subsequently issued a report estimating that the bill would cause 23 million Americans to lose health coverage, and would reduce the deficit by $119 billion over ten years. McCarthy and other House Republican leaders defended the legislation. [160]

Hate crimes Edit

McCarthy opposed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which added sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities as protected classes under existing federal hate crimes law. [161] He has voted against the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. [162]

Immigration Edit

Throughout 2018, McCarthy opposed efforts to codify the legal status of DREAMers after Trump suspended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which provided temporary stay for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors. McCarthy opposed efforts to codify the DACA protection because he thought it would depress turnout among the Republican base in the upcoming 2018 midterms elections. According to Politico, it was thought a DACA-type bill could have also undermined McCarthy's chances of becoming House Speaker after Paul Ryan retired from Congress, as it would have made it harder for McCarthy to attract the support of hard-line conservatives. [163]

In July 2018, House Democrats called for a floor vote that sought to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). House GOP leaders scrapped the latter and called for the House to vote on a resolution authored by McCarthy and Clay Higgins to support ICE. House Speaker Paul Ryan's spokeswoman said Democrats "will now have the chance to stand with the majority of Americans who support ICE and vote for this resolution", or otherwise follow "extreme voices on the far left calling for abolishment of an agency that protects us." [164]

In June 2019, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez compared the holding centers for undocumented immigrants at the Mexico–United States border to "concentration camps". McCarthy strongly criticized her words, saying they showed disrespect for Holocaust victims. [165]

LGBT rights Edit

McCarthy was a supporter of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriage and banned same-sex couples from receiving federal spousal benefits after President Barack Obama instructed the Justice Department not to defend the law in court, McCarthy supported House Republicans' legal defense of the law. [166] [167] When the DOMA case reached the Supreme Court in 2013, McCarthy joined Boehner and Eric Cantor in signing a brief urging the Court to uphold the law. [168]

Cannabis Edit

McCarthy has a "D-" rating from National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws regarding his voting record on cannabis-related matters. He voted against allowing veterans' access to medical marijuana, if legal in their state and recommended by their Veterans Health Administration doctor. [169]

Other issues Edit

In August 2018, McCarthy co-signed a letter spearheaded by John Garamendi, Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson, calling for Trump to "send more federal aid to fight" the wildfires across the state of California. The letter, in effect requests a "major disaster declaration" across several counties affected by the fires such a designation would "free up more federal relief" aimed at local governments and individuals affected. [170]

McCarthy introduced the FORWARD Act in 2018, which "would provide $95 million in research funding for valley fever and other fungal diseases". The bill provides $5 million for a "blockchain pilot program", facilitating sharing data between doctors and scientists researching such diseases. It would also fund $8 million in matching grant money to be awarded every year for five years to local groups applying for research grants, as well as $10 million each year for five years to CARB-X, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services public-private partnership. [171]

On October 23, 2018, McCarthy tweeted that Democratic donors businessman George Soros, businessman Tom Steyer and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, were trying to “buy” the upcoming election. [172] McCarthy tweeted this a day after a pipe bomb was delivered to Soros' home. [173] [174] [175] Steyer said McCarthy's tweet was a "straight-up antisemitic move" because the three Democrats are Jewish. [176] A vandal threw rocks at McCarthy's office and stole equipment from it, reportedly in reaction to McCarthy's tweet. McCarthy later deleted the tweet. [177]

Beginning with his time as a Dublin city councilor, Eric Swalwell was targeted by a Chinese woman believed to be a clandestine officer of China's Ministry of State Security. [178] [179] McCarthy called Swalwell, who served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, [179] a "national security threat". [180]

Claims of social media censorship Edit

McCarthy claims that social media platforms, such as Twitter, are actively censoring conservative politicians and their supporters. He called on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify before Congress on the matter. [181] On August 17, 2018, McCarthy submitted a tweet to suggest that conservatives were being censored by showing a screen capture of conservative commentator Laura Ingraham's Twitter account with a sensitive content warning on one of her tweets. [182] This warning was due to McCarthy's own Twitter settings rather than any censorship from the platform. [183] McCarthy also suggested that Google was biased against Republicans due to short-lived vandalism of the English Wikipedia entry on the California Republican Party being automatically indexed in Google search results. [184]

McCarthy and his wife Judy have two children. They are lifelong residents of Bakersfield. [17] He is a former board member for the Community Action Partnership of Kern. [185]

In October 2015, McCarthy was accused of having an affair with Representative Renee Ellmers. [186] McCarthy had unexpectedly dropped out of the race for Speaker of the House shortly before the allegations surfaced. [187] [188] Days earlier, Representative Walter B. Jones Jr. had sent a letter to the Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers stating that any candidates for a leadership position with "misdeeds" should withdraw from the race. [63] Both McCarthy and Ellmers have denied the allegations. [186]

An October 2018 investigation documented how William "Bill" Wages, of McCarthy's brother-in-law's company Vortex Construction, has received a total of $7.6 million since 2000 in no-bid and other prime federal contracts. The work was mostly for construction projects at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in McCarthy's Bakersfield-based district, and Naval Air Station Lemoore in California's Kings County. [189]


Cantor, the second of three children, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Mary Lee (née Hudes), a schoolteacher, and Eddie Cantor, who owned a real estate firm. His family emigrated from Russia, Romania, and Latvia in the late 1800s and early 1900s. [4] [5] His father was the state treasurer for Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign. [6] Cantor was raised in Conservative Judaism. [4]

He graduated from the Collegiate School, a co-ed private school in Richmond, in 1981. He enrolled at George Washington University (GW) in 1981 as a freshman he worked as an intern for House Republican Tom Bliley of Virginia, and was Bliley's driver in the 1982 campaign. [7] Cantor was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity while at GW and received his Bachelor of Arts in 1985. [8] He earned a Juris Doctor degree from William & Mary Law School in 1988, and received a Master of Science in Real Estate Development from Columbia University in 1989. [9]

Cantor worked for over a decade with his father's business doing legal work and real estate development. [ citation needed ]

Cantor served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1992 – January 1, 2001. [9] At various times he was a member of committees on Science and Technology, Corporation Insurance and Banking, General Laws, Courts of Justice, (co-chairman) Claims. [10] [11] Cantor announced on March 14, 2000 that he would seek the seat in the United States House of Representatives that was being vacated by Tom Bliley. Cantor had chaired Bliley's reelection campaigns for the previous six years, and immediately gained the support of Bliley's political organization, as well as Bliley's endorsement later in the primary. [12]

Committee assignments Edit

During his first term, Cantor was chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. He has also served on the House Financial Services Committee and on the House International Relations Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

Party leadership Edit

In 2002, weeks after winning a second term, Cantor was appointed by Republican Whip Roy Blunt to be Chief Deputy Republican Whip, the highest appointed position in the Republican caucus. [13]

On November 19, 2008, Cantor was unanimously elected Republican Whip for the 111th Congress, after serving as Deputy Whip for six years under Blunt. Blunt had decided not to seek reelection to the post after Republican losses in the previous two elections. Cantor was the first member of either party from Virginia to hold the position of Party Whip. As Whip, Cantor was the second-ranking House Republican, behind Minority Leader John Boehner. He was charged with coordinating the votes and messages of Republican House members. [1] [13] Cantor became the Majority Leader when the 112th Congress took office on January 3, 2011, after Republicans took back control of the House of Representatives. [14] In this position, he remained second-in-command to Boehner, who was the leader of the House Republicans.

Cantor was a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Republican National Committee. He is one of the Republican Party's top fundraisers, having raised over $30 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). [15] He is also one of the three founding members of the GOP Young Guns Program. In the fall of 2010, Cantor wrote a New York Times bestselling book, Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders, with the other two founding members of Young Guns. [16] They describe the vision outlined in the book as "a clear agenda based on common sense for the common good". [17] Cantor said in 2010 that he worked with the Tea Party movement in his district. [18]

As House Majority Leader, Cantor was named in House Resolution 368, which was passed by the House Rules Committee on the night of September 30, 2013, the night before the October 2013 government shutdown began, as the only member of the House with the power to bring forth bills and resolutions for a vote if both chambers of Congress disagree on that bill or resolution. Prior to the resolution's passing in committee, it was within the power of every member of the House under House Rule XXII, Clause 4 to be granted privilege to call for a vote. This amendment to the House rules was blamed for causing the partial government shutdown and for prolonging it since Cantor refused to allow the Senate's continuing resolution to be voted on in the House. Journalists and commentators noted during the shutdown that if the Senate's version of the continuing resolution were to be voted on, it would have passed the House with a majority vote since enough Democrats and Republicans supported it, effectively ending the government shutdown. [19] [20] [21]

Legislation Edit

Cantor was a strong supporter of the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, which he was the one to name in Gabriella Miller's honor. [22] The bill, which passed in both the House and the Senate, would end taxpayer contributions to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and divert the money in that fund to pay for research into pediatric cancer through the National Institutes of Health. [22] [23] The total funding for research would come to $126 million over 10 years. [22] [23] As of 2014, the national conventions got about 23% of their funding from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. [24] Cantor said that the bill "clearly reflects Congressional priorities in funding: medical research before political parties and conventions". [22]

For much of his career in the House, Cantor was the only Jewish Republican in the United States Congress. [1] [9] [25] He supports strong United States–Israel relations. [8] [9] He cosponsored legislation to cut off all U.S. taxpayer aid to Palestine and another bill calling for an end to taxpayer aid to the Palestinians until they stop unauthorized excavations on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. [26] Responding to a claim by the State Department that the United States provides no direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, Cantor claimed that United States sends about US$75 million in aid annually to the Palestinian Authority, which is administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development. He opposed a Congressionally approved three-year package of US$400 million in aid for the Palestinian Authority in 2000 and has also introduced legislation to end aid to Palestinians. [27]

In May 2008, Cantor said that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not a "constant sore" but rather "a constant reminder of the greatness of America", [28] and following Barack Obama's election as President in November 2008, Cantor stated that a "stronger U.S.–Israel relationship" remains a top priority for him and that he would be "very outspoken" if Obama "did anything to undermine those ties." [1] [29] Shortly after the 2010 midterm elections, Cantor met privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just before Netanyahu was to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to Cantor's office, he "stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration" and "made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States." [30] Cantor was criticized for engaging in foreign policy [31] one basis for the criticism was that in 2007, after Nancy Pelosi met with the President of Syria, Cantor himself had raised the possibility "that her recent diplomatic overtures ran afoul of the Logan Act, which makes it a felony for any American 'without authority of the United States' to communicate with a foreign government to influence that government's behavior on any disputes with the United States." [32]

Social issues Edit

Cantor opposed public funding of embryonic stem cell research and opposed elective abortion. He was rated 100% by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and 0% by NARAL Pro-Choice America, indicating an anti-abortion voting record. He was also opposed to same-sex marriage as of the mid-2000s, voting to Constitutionally define marriage as between a male and a female in 2006. In November 2007 he voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. He also supported making flag burning illegal. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) rated him 19% in 2006, indicating an anti-affirmative action voting record. He was opposed to gun control, voting to ban product misuse lawsuits on gun manufacturers in 2005, and he voted not to require gun registration and trigger-lock laws in the District of Columbia. He had a rating of "A" from the National Rifle Association (NRA). [33] On November 2, 2010, Cantor told Wolf Blitzer of CNN that he would try to trim the federal deficit by reducing welfare.

Economy, budgeting, and trade Edit

Cantor was a supporter of free trade, voting to promote trade with Peru, Chile, Singapore, and Australia. He also voted for the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). He voted against raising the minimum wage to US$7.25 in 2007. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO), the largest federation of trade unions in the United States, rates Cantor 0%, indicating an anti-Union voting record.

In October 2008, Cantor advocated and voted for the TARP program which aided distressed banks. [34]

On September 29, 2008 Cantor blamed Pelosi for what he felt was the failure of the $700 billion economic bailout bill. [35] He noted that 94 Democrats voted against the measure, as well as 133 Republicans. Though supporting the Federal bailout of the nation's largest private banks, he referred to Pelosi's proposal to appoint a Car czar to run the US Automobile Industry Bailout as a "bureaucratic" imposition on private business. [36]

The following February, Cantor led Republicans in the House of Representatives in voting against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 [37] and was a prominent spokesman in voicing the many issues he and his fellow Republicans had with the legislation. Cantor voted in favor of a 90% marginal tax rate increase on taxpayer financed bonuses, [38] despite receiving campaign contributions from TARP recipient Citigroup. [39]

In his book Young Guns, Cantor summarized Keynesian economics with the following opinion, "The idea is that the government can be counted on to spend more wisely than the people." [40]

As Majority Leader, Cantor steered the STOCK Act through the House, which requires Congressmen to disclose their stock investments more regularly and in a more transparent manner. [41] The legislation passed the House in a 417–2 bipartisan vote on February 9, 2012. It was ultimately signed by President Obama on April 4, 2012. [42] In July 2012, CNN reported that changes made by the House version of the legislation excluded reporting requirements by spouses and dependent children. Initially, Cantor's office insisted it did nothing to change the intent of the STOCK Act however, when presented with new information from CNN, the Majority Leader's office recognized that changes had unintentionally been made and offered technical corrections to fulfill the original intent of the legislation. [43] These corrections were passed by Congress on August 3, 2012. [44]

As Majority Leader, Cantor shepherded the JOBS Act through the House, which combined bipartisan ideas for economic growth – like crowdfunding for startups – into one piece of legislation. Ultimately, President Obama, Eric Cantor, Steve Case and other leaders joined together at the signing ceremony. [45]

Cantor proposed initiatives which he purported would help small businesses grow, including a 20 percent tax cut for businesses that employ fewer than 500 people. [46]

Other foreign affairs Edit

In an article he wrote for the National Review in 2007, he condemned Nancy Pelosi's diplomatic visit to Syria, and her subsequent meeting with President Bashar al-Assad, whom he referred to as a "dictator and terror-sponsor" saying that if "Speaker Pelosi's diplomatic foray into Syria weren't so harmful to U.S. interests in the Middle East, it would have been laughable." [47]

In 2014, Cantor criticized what he referred to as "the isolationist sentiment" and said that it was a mistake to withdraw from Iraq and had called for troops to remain in Afghanistan. [48]

During the 2016 presidential election Cantor, a supporter of Israel, [49] called on Donald Trump to be more consistent with his support for Israel. [50]

Cantor formerly represented Virginia's 7th congressional district, which stretches from the western end of Richmond, through its suburbs, and northward to Page, Rappahannock Culpeper and parts of Spotsylvania, county. It also includes the towns of Mechanicsville and Laurel. The district is has traditionally been strongly Republican it had been in Republican hands since 1981 until 2018, when Cantor’s successor Dave Brat lost his re-election to Abigail Spanberger (it was numbered as the 3rd District prior to 1993). [51]

Virginia House of Delegates Edit

Cantor was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1991, winning the race for the 73rd district seat unopposed. [ citation needed ] He was re-elected in 1993 with 79% of the vote. [ citation needed ] He won re-election in 1995, 1997, and 1999 in all three races he was unopposed. [ citation needed ]

House of Representatives Edit

Cantor was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, succeeding retiring 20-year incumbent Republican Tom Bliley. He defeated the Democratic nominee, Warren A. Stewart, by nearly 100,000 votes. [52] Cantor had won the closely contested Republican primary — the real contest in what was then one of the most Republican districts in Virginia — over state Senator Steve Martin by only 263 votes. During his first term, he was one of only two Jewish Republicans serving concurrently in the House of Representatives, the other being Ben Gilman of (R-NY). Gilman retired in 2002, leaving Cantor the sole Jewish Republican House member.

In 2002, Cantor was opposed by Democrat Ben Jones, an actor (who had played "Cooter Davenport" on The Dukes of Hazzard) and a former congressman from Georgia. [53] [54]

In 2004, Cantor was opposed by Independent W. B. Blanton. Cantor won with 75.5% of the vote. In 2006, Cantor was opposed by Democrat James M. Nachman and Independent W. B. Blanton. Cantor won with 64% to Nachman's 34% and Blanton's 2%. [ citation needed ]

In August 2008, news reports surfaced that Cantor was being considered as John McCain's Vice-Presidential running mate, with McCain's representatives seeking documents from Cantor as part of its vetting process. [55] [56] [57] The idea for Cantor to be McCain's running mate was supported by conservative leaders like Richard Land and Erick Erickson. [58] [59] Cantor was not selected for the vice presidential nomination, and in his 2008 re-election campaign, Cantor defeated Democratic challenger Anita Hartke 63%–37%.

In 2010, Cantor was re-elected with 59% of the vote. [60]

In 2012, Cantor faced a primary challenger, Floyd C. Bayne, in the June 12 Republican primary Cantor won the primary with 79% of the vote [61] and then defeated Democratic challenger Wayne Powell in the general election. Although he won with 58% of the vote, Cantor received his lowest vote percentage since being elected to Congress in 2000. [ citation needed ]

2014 Republican primary and resignation Edit

On June 10, 2014, in a major upset, Cantor lost the Republican primary 44.5%–55.5% to Dave Brat, a Tea Party candidate and a professor at Randolph-Macon College. That made Cantor the first sitting House majority leader to lose a primary since the position was created in 1899. [62] [63] [64] [65] Internal campaign polls before the primary showed Cantor 30 points ahead of Brat, [66] and he outspent Brat 40 to 1. [67]

Cantor's loss in the primary was described by the Los Angeles Times as "one of the greatest political upsets of modern times." [66] His loss was attributed to numerous factors including a moderating of his views after entering House leadership, being disconnected from his district, a lack of enthusiasm among his supporters, low turnout for the primary election, and support of Brat from radio talk show hosts. [68]

Although the national media were shocked at Brat's victory, Richmond-area media outlets had received signs well before the primary that Cantor was in trouble. [69] The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported two weeks before the primary that a number of Cantor's constituents felt he took them for granted. The Times-Dispatch also revealed that Cantor's attempt to brand Brat as a liberal professor actually made more people turn out for Brat. [70] The Chesterfield Observer, a local paper serving Chesterfield County—roughly half of which is in the 7th—reported that Tea-Party-aligned candidates had won several victories there, and at least one Cantor loyalist believed Tea Party supporters smelled "blood in the water." [71] One local reporter told David Carr of The New York Times that many constituents believed Cantor was arrogant and unapproachable. However, due to massive cutbacks, the race was severely under-polled by local media. Few Capitol Hill reporters were willing to go to Cantor's district, for fear that they would be out of Washington in case a major story broke. [69]

Following his primary defeat, Cantor announced his resignation as House Majority Leader effective on July 31, 2014, and declared that he would not campaign for the general election. In an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch on July 31, 2014, Cantor announced his resignation from Congress effective on August 18, 2014, and said that he had asked Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to call for a special election on November 4, 2014 to coincide with the 2014 general election. [72] [73] [74]

On Tuesday, September 2, 2014, advisory firm Moelis & Company announced that it was appointing Eric Cantor as vice chairman and managing director and that he would be elected to the Moelis & Company board of directors. [75]

After the passage of the health care reform bill in March 2010, Cantor reported that somebody had shot a bullet through a window of his campaign office in Richmond, Virginia. A spokesman for the Richmond police later stated that the bullet was not intentionally fired at Cantor's office, saying that it was instead random gunfire, as there were no signs outside the office identifying the office as being Cantor's. [76] Cantor responded to this by saying that Democratic leaders in the House should stop "dangerously fanning the flames" by blaming Republicans for threats against House Democrats who voted for the health care legislation. [77]

Cantor also reported that he had received threatening e-mails related to the passage of the bill. [78] In March 2010, Norman Leboon was arrested for making threats against Cantor and his family. [79]

In 2011, Cantor received two threatening phone calls from Glendon Swift who left "screaming, profanity-laden messages [that] allegedly stated that he was going to destroy Cantor, rape his daughter and kill his wife." Swift was sentenced in April 2012 to 13 months in federal prison. [80]

Virginia's 7th congressional district : Results 2000–2014 [81] [82] [83]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct Other Party Votes Pct
2000 Warren A. Stewart 94,935 33% Eric Cantor 192,652 67% *
2002 Ben L. "Cooter" Jones 49,854 30% Eric Cantor 113,658 69% *
2004 (no candidate) Eric Cantor 230,765 75% W. Brad Blanton Independent 74,325 24% *
2006 James M. Nachman 88,206 34% Eric Cantor 163,706 64% W. Brad Blanton Independent 4,213 2% *
2008 Anita Hartke 138,123 37% Eric Cantor 233,531 63%
2010 Rick Waugh 79,607 34% Eric Cantor 138,196 59% Floyd Bayne Independent Green 15,164 6% *
2012 E. Wayne Powell 158,012 41% Eric Cantor 222,983 58%

Cantor met his wife, Diana Marcy Fine, on a blind date and they were married in 1989. [10] [25] [84] They have three children, Evan, Jenna, and Michael, and live in Wyndham, an unincorporated suburban community near Richmond.

Diana Cantor is a lawyer, certified public accountant, and a managing director in a division of Emigrant Bank, a subsidiary of New York Private Bank & Trust Corp.. [85] She founded, and from 1996 until 2008 was executive director of, the Virginia College Savings Plan (an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia). She was also chairman of the board of the College Savings Plans Network. [84] [86] [87] Contrary to her husband, she is a lifelong Democrat, and is pro-abortion rights and supports same-sex marriage. [88]

List of Speakers of the House

1 Resigned from the House of Representatives on January 19, 1814.

2 Elected Speaker on January 19, 1814, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Speaker Henry Clay.

3 Resigned as Speaker of the House of Representatives on October 28, 1820.

4 Elected Speaker on November 15, 1820, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Speaker Henry Clay.

5 Resigned from the House of Representatives on March 6, 1825, to serve as Secretary of State in the presidential administration of John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts.

6 Resigned from the House of Representatives on June 2, 1834.

7 Elected Speaker on June 2, 1834, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Speaker Andrew Stevenson.

8 Was not a candidate for renomination to the House of Representatives in 1868, having become the Republican nominee for Vice President and successfully elected to that office.

9 Elected Speaker on March 3, 1869, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Speaker Schuyler Colfax, and served one day.

10 Died in office, August 19, 1876.

11 Elected Speaker on December 4, 1876, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Speaker Michael Kerr.

12 Died in office, August 19, 1934.

13 Died in office, June 4, 1936.

14 Elected Speaker on June 4, 1936, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Speaker Joseph Byrns.

15 Died in office, September 15, 1940.

16 Elected Speaker on September 16, 1940, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Speaker William Bankhead.

17 Died in office, November 16, 1961.

18 Elected Speaker on January 10, 1962, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Speaker Samuel Rayburn.

19 Resigned as Speaker of the House of Representatives on June 6, 1989.

20 Elected Speaker on June 6, 1989, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Speaker James Wright, Jr.

21 John Boehner resigned as Speaker of the House on October 29, 2015.

22 Paul D. Ryan was elected Speaker on October 29, 2015, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Speaker John Boehner.


McConnell was born February 20, 1942, at Colbert County Hospital, to Addison Mitchell "A.M." McConnell II (1917–1990) and Julia Odene "Dean" ( née Shockley) McConnell (1919–1993). [6] McConnell was born in Sheffield, Alabama, and grew up in nearby Athens, Alabama, where his grandfather, Robert Hayes McConnell Sr. and his great uncle Addison Mitchell McConnell, owned McConnell Funeral Home. [7] He is of Scots-Irish and English descent. One of his ancestors fought on the American side in the American Revolutionary War. [6] [8]

In 1944, at the age of two, McConnell's upper left leg was paralyzed by a polio attack. [6] [9] He received treatment at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. The treatment potentially saved him from being disabled for the rest of his life. [10] McConnell said his family "almost went broke" because of costs related to his illness. [11]

In 1950, when he was eight, McConnell moved with his family from Athens to Augusta, Georgia, where his father, who was in the Army, was stationed at Fort Gordon. [12]

In 1956, his family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where he attended duPont Manual High School. [12] McConnell was elected student council president at his high school during his junior year. [12] He graduated Omicron Delta Kappa from the University of Louisville with a B.A. in political science in 1964. [13] He was president of the Student Council of the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. [14]

McConnell attended the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave the "I Have a Dream" speech. [15] In 1964, at the age of 22, he attended civil rights rallies, [16] and interned with Senator John Sherman Cooper. He has said his time with Cooper inspired him to run for the Senate later in life. [17] [18]

In 1967, McConnell graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law, where he was president of the Student Bar Association. [14] [19]

In March 1967, shortly before the expiration of his educational draft deferment upon graduation from law school, McConnell enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve as a private at Louisville, Kentucky. [20] This was a coveted position because the Reserve units were mostly kept out of combat during the Vietnam War. [20] [21] : 11–12 His first day of training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, was July 9, 1967, two days after taking the bar exam, and his last day was August 15, 1967. [14] [20] Shortly after his arrival, he was diagnosed with optic neuritis and was deemed medically unfit for military service. [20] [22] After five weeks at Fort Knox, he was honorably discharged. [20] His brief time in service has repeatedly been put at issue by his political opponents during his electoral campaigns. [20] [22] [23]

From 1968 to 1970 McConnell worked as chief legislative assistant to Senator Marlow Cook in Washington, D.C., managing a legislative department consisting of five members as well as assisting with speech writing and constituent services. [24]

In 1971 McConnell returned to Louisville, where he worked for Tom Emberton's candidacy for Governor of Kentucky, which was unsuccessful. [24] McConnell attempted to run for a seat in the state legislature but was disqualified because he did not meet the residency requirements for the office. [24] He then went to work for a Louisville law firm, Segal, Isenberg, Sales and Stewart, for a few years. [25] [24] During the same time period, he taught a night class on political science at the University of Louisville. [19] [26] [27]

In October 1974 McConnell returned to Washington to fill a position as Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President Gerald Ford, where he worked alongside Robert Bork, Laurence Silberman, and Antonin Scalia. [19] [24]

In 1977 McConnell was elected the Jefferson County judge/executive, the top political office in Jefferson County, Kentucky, at the time, defeating incumbent Democrat Todd Hollenbach, III, 53% to 47%. He was re-elected in 1981 against Jefferson County Commissioner Jim "Pop" Malone, 51% to 47%, outspending Malone 3-1, and occupied this office until his election to the U.S. Senate in 1984. [17] [24]

In his early years as a politician in Kentucky, McConnell was known as a pragmatist and a moderate Republican. [17] [21] Over time he shifted to the right and became more conservative. [17] [21] According to one of his biographers, McConnell transformed "from a moderate Republican who supported abortion rights and public employee unions to the embodiment of partisan obstructionism and conservative orthodoxy on Capitol Hill". [21] On February 12, 1999, McConnell was one of fifty senators to vote to convict and remove Bill Clinton from office. [28]

From 1997 to 2001 McConnell was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the body charged with securing electoral victories for Republicans. [29] [30] He was first elected as Majority Whip in the 108th Congress [31] and was unanimously re-elected on November 17, 2004. [ citation needed ] Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, did not seek re-election in the 2006 elections. In November, after Republicans lost control of the Senate, they elected McConnell as the Minority Leader. [32] After Republicans took control of the Senate following the 2014 Senate elections, McConnell became the Senate Majority Leader. [33] In June 2018 he became the longest-serving Senate Republican leader in the history of the United States. [34] McConnell is the second Kentuckian to serve as a party leader in the Senate (after Alben W. Barkley led the Democrats from 1937 to 1949) [13] and is the longest-serving U.S. senator from Kentucky in history. [35]

McConnell has a reputation as a skilled political strategist and tactician. [36] [37] [38] [39] However, this reputation dimmed after Republicans failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in 2017 during consolidated Republican control of government. [40] [41] [42] [43]

McConnell regularly obtained earmarks for businesses and institutions in Kentucky, until the practice was banned by Congress in 2010. [44] McConnell has received criticism for funding "temporary patches" to Kentucky's long-term healthcare problems, while simultaneously opposing and obstructing national programs that seek to improve healthcare more systematically, such as Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. [27]

Relationship with Obama administration

McConnell has been widely described as an obstructionist. [45] [46] [47] [18] [48] [49] [50] [37] [51] [52] As the leading Republican senator, McConnell confronted and pressured other Republican senators who were willing to negotiate with Democrats and the Obama administration. [52] According to Purdue University political scientist Bert A. Rockman, "pure party line voting has been evident now for some time . but rarely has the tactic of 'oppositionism' been so boldly stated as McConnell did." [53] According to University of Texas legal scholar Sanford Levinson, McConnell learned that obstruction and Republican unity were the optimal ways to ensure Republican gains in upcoming elections after he observed how Democratic cooperation with the Bush administration on No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D helped Bush's 2004 re-election. [54] Levinson noted, "McConnell altogether rationally . concluded that Republicans have nothing to gain, as a political party, from collaborating in anything that the president could then claim as an achievement." [54] A number of political scientists, historians, and legal scholars have characterized McConnell's obstructionism and constitutional hardball as contributors to democratic erosion in the United States. [51] [55] [56] [57] [58] [59] [60]

In October 2010, McConnell said "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Asked whether this meant "endless, or at least frequent, confrontation with the president", McConnell clarified that "if [Obama is] willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it's not inappropriate for us to do business with him." [61] According to political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, "Facing off against Obama, [McConnell] worked to deny even minimal Republican support for major presidential initiatives – initiatives that were, as a rule, in keeping with the moderate model of decades past, and often with moderate Republican stances of a few years past." [51] The New York Times noted early during Obama's administration that "on the major issues – not just health care, but financial regulation and the economic stimulus package, among others – Mr. McConnell has held Republican defections to somewhere between minimal and nonexistent, allowing him to slow the Democratic agenda if not defeat aspects of it." [46] The Republican caucus threatened repeatedly to force the United States to default on its debt, McConnell saying he had learned from the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis that "it's a hostage that's worth ransoming." [47] [62]

McConnell worked to delay and obstruct health care reform and banking reform, two of the most notable pieces of legislation that Democrats navigated through Congress early in Obama's tenure. [63] [64] Political scientists noted that "by slowing action even on measures supported by many Republicans, McConnell capitalized on the scarcity of floor time, forcing Democratic leaders into difficult trade-offs concerning which measures were worth pursuing. . Slowing the Senate's ability to process even routine measures limited the sheer volume of liberal bills that could be adopted." [64]

Use of the filibuster

One of McConnell's most common tactic, as Minority Leader, to delay or obstruct legislation and judicial appointments has been the filibuster. A filibuster is an attempt to "talk a bill to death", forcing Senate leadership to abandon a proposed measure instead of waiting out the filibuster―or at least to delay the measure's passage. In the United States Senate, any senator may speak for unlimited duration unless a 60-person majority votes to invoke cloture, or end debate, and proceed to a final vote. Political scientists have referred to McConnell's use of the filibuster as "constitutional hardball", referring to the misuse of procedural tools in a way that undermines democracy. [51] [62] [55] [65]

Political scientists Hacker and Pierson describe the rationale behind McConnell's filibusters, "Filibusters left no fingerprints. When voters heard that legislation had been 'defeated', journalists rarely highlighted that this defeat meant a minority had blocked a majority. Not only did this strategy produce an atmosphere of gridlock and dysfunction it also chewed up the Senate calendar, restricting the range of issues on which Democrats could progress." [51]

In 2012 McConnell proposed a measure allowing President Obama to raise the debt ceiling, hoping some Democratic senators would oppose the measure, thus demonstrating disunity among Democrats. However, all Democratic senators supported the proposal, which led McConnell to filibuster his own proposal. [66]

In 2013 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster for all presidential nominations except the Supreme Court. By that time, nearly half of all votes to invoke cloture in the history of the Senate had occurred during Obama's presidency. [56] In April 2017, Senate Republicans led by McConnell eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in order to end debate on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch. [67] [68] [69] In August 2019, McConnell wrote an editorial for The New York Times, strongly opposing the elimination of the filibuster on legislation. [70]

Judicial nominees

Under Obama

Throughout Obama's tenure McConnell led Senate Republicans in what has been called "a disciplined, sustained, at times underhanded campaign to deny the Democratic president the opportunity to appoint federal judges". [71] In June 2009, following President Obama nominating Sonia Sotomayor as Associate Justice, McConnell and Jeff Sessions opined that Sotomayor's seventeen years as a federal judge and over 3,600 judicial opinions would require lengthy review and advocated against Democrats hastening the confirmation process. [72] On July 17, McConnell announced that he would vote against Sotomayor's confirmation. [73] In August, McConnell called Sotomayor "a fine person with an impressive story and a distinguished background" but added he did not believe she would withhold her personal or political views while serving as a justice. Sotomayor was confirmed days later. [74]

In May 2010, after President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to succeed the retiring John Paul Stevens, McConnell said during a Senate speech that Americans wanted to make sure Kagan would be independent of influence from White House as an associate justice and noted Obama referring to Kagan as a friend of his in announcing her nomination. [75] McConnell announced his opposition to Kagan's confirmation, saying she was not forthcoming enough about her "views on basic principles of American constitutional law". [76] Kagan was confirmed the following month. [77]

In 2014 Republicans gained control of the Senate, and McConnell became majority leader he used his newly heightened power to start what was considered "a near blockade of Obama's judicial appointments". According to The New York Times, Obama's final two years as president saw 18 district court judges and one appeals court judge confirmed, the fewest since President Harry S. Truman. In comparison, the final two years of the presidencies of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan had between 55 and 70 district court judges each confirmed and between 10 and 15 appeals court judges confirmed. [71] According to the Los Angeles Times, McConnell brought about an "extraordinary two-year slowdown in judicial confirmations", detailing 22 confirmations of Obama's judicial nominees, the lowest since President Truman in 1951–1952. The number of federal judicial vacancies more than doubled comparing the figure near the end of Obama's term to the figure at the end of George W. Bush's term. [78] [79] Later in a 2019 interview, McConnell credited himself for the large number of judicial vacancies created in the last two years of Obama's presidency. [80]

On February 13, 2016, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia died. [81] Shortly thereafter, McConnell issued a statement indicating that the U.S. Senate would not consider any Supreme Court nominee put forth by Obama. [18] [82] "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president," McConnell said at the time. [82] On March 16, 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a Judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, to the Supreme Court. [83] Under McConnell's direction, Senate Republicans refused to take any action on the Garland nomination. [84] Garland's nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress. [85]

In an August 2016 speech in Kentucky, McConnell made reference to the Garland nomination, saying that "one of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, 'Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.'" [86] [87] In April 2018, McConnell said the decision not to act upon the Garland nomination was "the most consequential decision I've made in my entire public career". [88] McConnell's refusal to hold Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland during Obama's final year in office was described by political scientists and legal scholars as "unprecedented", [89] [90] a "culmination of [his] confrontational style", [91] a "blatant abuse of constitutional norms", [57] and a "classic example of constitutional hardball". [62]

Under Trump

In January 2017 Republican president Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left after Scalia's death. [92] Gorsuch's nomination was confirmed on April 7, 2017, after McConnell eliminated the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees. [93]

On July 18, 2018, with Andy Oldham's Senate confirmation, Senate Republicans broke a record for largest number of appeals court judiciary confirmations during a president's first two years Oldham became the 23rd appeals court judge confirmed in Trump's term. [94] McConnell said he considers the judiciary to be the item of Trump's first two years with the longest-lasting impact on the country. The record for the number of circuit court judges confirmed during a president's first year was broken in 2017, while the previous two-year record took place under President George H. W. Bush, and included 22 nominations. [95] By March 2020, McConnell had contacted an unknown number of judges, encouraging them to retire prior to the 2020 election. [96] [97] By confirming 260 federal judges over the course of Trump's four-year term, McConnell did shift the judiciary to the right. [ citation needed ]

In July 2018, President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. McConnell accused Democrats of creating an "extreme" distortion of Kavanaugh's record during his hearing process. [98] In September 2018, Christine Blasey Ford publicly alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh in 1982. After a report came out of Democrats investigating a second allegation against Kavanaugh, McConnell said, "I want to make it perfectly clear. . Judge Kavanaugh will be voted on here on the Senate floor." [99] Kavanaugh was confirmed on October 6. [100] [101] McConnell afterward admitted the confirmation process was a low point for the Senate, but also downplayed reports of dysfunction in the Senate he said claims that the Senate was "somehow broken over this [were] simply inaccurate". [102]

In October 2018 McConnell said if a Supreme Court vacancy were to occur during Trump's 2020 re-election year he would not follow his 2016 decision to let the winner of the upcoming presidential election nominate a justice. He noted that in 2016 the Senate was controlled by a party other than the president's – and argued that for that reason, the 2016 precedent was not applicable in 2020, when the presidency and Senate were both controlled by Republicans. [103] In September 2020, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he announced the Senate would vote on Trump's nominated replacement. [104] On October 23, 2020, McConnell set in place the Senate debate for the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg's seat. Barrett was confirmed on October 26, 2020. [105]

Government shutdowns

The United States federal government shut down October 1–17, 2013, following a failure to enact legislation to fund the government. McConnell later vowed Republicans would not force the U.S. to default on its debt or shut down the government in 2014, when stop-gap funding measures were set to expire. He also said he would not allow other Republicans to obstruct the budget-making process. [106]

In July 2018, McConnell said funding for the Mexico–United States border wall would likely have to wait until the midterms had concluded. President Trump tweeted two days later that he was willing to allow a government shutdown to get funding. [107] Several spending bills were approved that August, which was seen as a victory for McConnell in his attempts to prevent another government shutdown. [108]

Shutdown of 2018–2019

From December 22, 2018, until January 25, 2019, the federal government was shut down when Congress refused to give in to Trump's demand for $5.7 billion in federal funds for a U.S.–Mexico border wall. [109] In December 2018, the Republican-controlled Senate unanimously passed an appropriations bill without wall funding, and the bill appeared likely to be approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Trump. After Trump faced heavy criticism from some right-wing media outlets and pundits for appearing to back down on his campaign promise to "build the wall", he announced that he would not sign any appropriations bill that did not fund its construction. [110]

During this shutdown, McConnell blocked the Senate from voting on appropriations legislation, and said it was not his place to mediate between the Senate and Trump. [111] [112] [113] Privately, McConnell had advised Trump against initiating the shutdown. [18] Democrats criticized McConnell for not putting appropriations legislation up for a vote, noting that the Republican-controlled Senate had unanimously passed an appropriations bill without wall funding and that the Senate could override Trump's veto. [111] [112] [113]

By January 23, McConnell had blocked four Senate bills to reopen the government and a bill funding the Homeland Security Department through February 8. McConnell called for Democrats to support a Trump administration-backed measure that included $5.7 billion in wall funding, together with a temporary extension of protections for DACA recipients, a Democratic priority. [114] Privately, other Republican senators pressured McConnell to stop blocking appropriations legislation. [115] [116]

The shutdown ended on January 25, when President Trump signed a three-week funding measure reopening the government until February 15 without any funds for a border wall. [117] This was the longest government shutdown in American history. [18]

Relationship with Trump administration

McConnell initially endorsed fellow Kentucky senator Rand Paul during the 2016 presidential campaign. Following Paul's withdrawal from the race in February 2016, McConnell endorsed presumptive nominee Donald Trump on February 4, 2016. [118] However, McConnell disagreed with Trump on multiple subsequent occasions. In May 2016, after Trump suggested that federal judge Gonzalo P. Curiel was biased against Trump because of his Mexican heritage, McConnell responded, "I don't agree with what he (Trump) had to say. This is a man who was born in Indiana. All of us came here from somewhere else." In July 2016, after Trump had criticized the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim-American soldier who was killed in Iraq, McConnell said, "All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services." On October 7, 2016, following the Donald Trump Access Hollywood controversy, McConnell said, "As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape." [119] In private, McConnell reportedly expresses disdain for Trump [120] and "abhors" his behavior. [121]

In October 2017, White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and other Trump allies blamed McConnell for stalling the Trump administration's legislation. In response, McConnell cited the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to show that the Senate was supportive of Trump's agenda. [122]

After Joe Biden won the election of 2020 against Donald Trump, McConnell at first refused to recognize Biden as the winner of the election. [123] [124] [125] In his public statements, McConnell did not repeat any of Trump's false claims of voter fraud, but did not contradict them, ignoring questions about evidence and instead arguing that Trump had the right to challenge the results. [124] [126] [127] At the same time that McConnell refused to recognize Biden, he did celebrate Republicans who won their races in the Senate and the House in the same elections. [124] [126] [128]

On December 15, one day after the electoral college vote, McConnell reversed his previous stance and publicly acknowledged Biden's win, stating "Today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden." [129] On January 6, during the Electoral College vote count, McConnell spoke out against the efforts of Trump and his allies to overturn the election:

Trump claims the election was stolen. The assertions range from specific local allegations to constitutional arguments to sweeping conspiracy theories . nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale – the massive scale – that would have tipped the entire election. . If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We'd never see the whole nation accept an election again. Every four years would be a scramble for power at any cost. [130]

Later that day, he described the storming of the Capitol building (which occurred while the Electoral College votes were being counted) as a "failed insurrection" which "tried to disrupt our democracy". [131]

On April 10, 2021, Trump called McConnell a "dumb son of a bitch". Trump added: "I hired his wife. Did he ever say thank you?" [132] Trump has continued to attack McConnell in personal terms since then. [133]

First impeachment of Trump

On November 5, 2019, as the House of Representatives began public hearings on the impeachment of President Trump, McConnell said, "I'm pretty sure how [an impeachment trial is] likely to end. . If it were today, I don't think there's any question – it would not lead to a removal." [134]

On December 14, 2019, McConnell met with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland. Later that day, McConnell declared that for Trump's impeachment trial, he would be in "total coordination with the White House counsel's office" and Trump's representatives. [80] [135] He also declared that there was "no chance" the Senate would convict Trump and remove him from office. [136]

On December 17, 2019, McConnell rejected a request to call four witnesses for Trump's impeachment trial because, according to McConnell, the Senate's role was to "act as judge and jury", not to investigate. Later that day, McConnell told the media: "I'm not an impartial juror [in this impeachment trial]. This is a political process. There's not anything judicial about it." [137] [138]

After Trump's acquittal, McConnell was noted for his ability to block witnesses, to secure Trump's acquittal, and to maintain party unity during the impeachment process. Commentators noted that McConnell had kept Republican senators "marching in lockstep" throughout the process. [139] [140] [141]

Second impeachment of Trump

On January 12, 2021, it was reported that McConnell supported impeaching Trump for his role in inciting the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, believing it would make it easier for Republicans to purge the party of Trump and rebuild the party. [142] On January 13, despite having the authority to call for an emergency meeting of the Senate to hold the Senate trial [ failed verification ] , McConnell did not reconvene the chamber, claiming unanimous consent was required. [143] McConnell called for delaying the Senate trial until after Joe Biden's inauguration. [144] Once the Senate trial started, McConnell voted to acquit Trump on February 13, 2021, and said it was unconstitutional to convict someone who was no longer in office. [145]

The vote was a bipartisan majority (57–43) but not enough to pass the two-thirds threshold. [146] After the vote McConnell lambasted and condemned Trump, despite his vote to acquit, in a 20-minute speech on the floor of the Senate, saying he believes Trump to be guilty of everything alleged by the House managers. [147] [148]

"Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty . There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day . If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge." [149]

McConnell also said Trump remains subject to the country's criminal and civil laws saying, "He didn't get away with anything yet." He also said why he voted to acquit: "Article II, Section 4 must have force. It tells us the President, Vice President, and civil officers may be impeached and convicted. Donald Trump is no longer the president. Clearly that mandatory sentence cannot be applied to somebody who has left office. The entire process revolves around removal. If removal becomes impossible, conviction becomes insensible." [149]

In 2021, McConnell sought to organize Republican Senators into filibustering a bipartisan commission to investigate the storming of the Capitol on January 6. [150]

On May 28, 2021, McConnell voted against creating an independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection. [151]

Coronavirus response

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, McConnell initially opposed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, calling it a Democratic "ideological wish list". [152] [153] He subsequently reversed his position when Trump endorsed the proposed package. [154] The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 90–8.

McConnell also directed Senate Republicans in negotiations for two other coronavirus response packages: the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, and the CARES Act. The CARES Act was the largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history, [155] amounting to 10% of total U.S. gross domestic product. [156] It passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support.

Speaking on the Hugh Hewitt radio show on April 22, 2020, McConnell suggested that states should be able to declare bankruptcy instead of receiving additional coronavirus aid funds – funds which he implied would be used to save insolvent state pension funds, instead of coronavirus relief as intended. His comments were met with sharp criticism from various state and local officials. States currently cannot declare bankruptcy. [157]

After the passage of the CARES Act, McConnell waited several months before advancing any additional coronavirus relief measures in the Senate, saying in May "I don't think we have yet felt the urgency of acting immediately," and that Congress should "[hit] pause" to evaluate how the allocated funds were working before approving more. [158] In negotiations between congressional Democrats and White House officials for an additional aid package, McConnell was absent from the talks. [159] [160] [161]

On September 10, a pared-down coronavirus relief bill crafted by McConnell failed to advance the Senate past a Democratic filibuster. [162] Democrats panned the bill as "completely inadequate" given the scope of the crisis brought on by the coronavirus [163] – and as a partisan maneuver to help Republican senators up for reelection. [164] McConnell called the bill a choice between "do[ing] something" and "do[ing] nothing", [165] and said he was holding the procedural vote to get lawmakers on the record about their willingness to compromise on coronavirus legislation. [166]

Committee assignments


McConnell has taken conservative stances for at least the last two decades up until 2016. During his Senate tenure, McConnell has led opposition to stricter campaign finance laws, culminating in the Supreme Court ruling that partially overturned the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold) in 2010. He has also led opposition against Obamacare, [167] including efforts to delay or prevent the law's passage, and later efforts to repeal or replace it, including the American Healthcare Reform Act. McConnell has also opposed stronger gun control measures, and efforts to mitigate climate change. He has supported stronger border security, free trade agreements, and reductions in taxes, including the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. His foreign policy views have included support of sanctions on Cuba, Iran and Russia [168] opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and support of Israel. He voted for the Iraq Resolution, which authorized military action against Iraq, [169] and supported the Iraq War troop surge of 2007 in public. [170] Earlier in his political career, however, during the 1960s and 1970s, McConnell held moderate stances, including support of abortions, support of unions, and support of the civil rights movement. [171]

McConnell has criticized proposed legislation by House Democrats such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. [172] In June 2019, Nancy Pelosi criticized McConnell for withholding votes on measures already passed by the Democratically controlled House, including the For the People Act of 2019, the Equality Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and others. [173]

Year % McConnell Opponent(s) Party affiliation % of vote County-by-county map
1984 49.9% Walter Huddleston (incumbent) Democratic 49.5%
1990 52.2% Harvey I. Sloane Democratic 47.8%
1996 55.5% Steve Beshear Democratic 42.8%
2002 64.7% Lois Combs Weinberg Democratic 35.3%
2008 53.0% Bruce Lunsford Democratic 47.0%
2014 56.2% Alison Lundergan Grimes Democratic 40.7%
2020 57.8% Amy McGrath Democratic 38.2%

In 1984, McConnell ran for the U.S. Senate against two-term Democratic incumbent Walter Dee Huddleston. The election race was not decided until the last returns came in, when McConnell won by 3,437 votes out of more than 1.2 million votes cast, just over 0.4%. [174] McConnell was the only Republican Senate challenger to win that year, despite Ronald Reagan's landslide victory in the presidential election.

McConnell's campaign was noted for a series of television campaign spots called "Where's Dee", which featured a group of bloodhounds trying to find Huddleston, [175] [ better source needed ] [176] implying that Huddleston's attendance record in the Senate was poor. [177] [178] He was the first Republican to win a statewide election in Kentucky since 1968, and benefited from the popularity of President Ronald Reagan, up for re-election, who was supported by 60% of Kentucky voters in the same year. [36]

In 1990, McConnell faced former Louisville Mayor Harvey I. Sloane, winning by 4.4%. [179]

In 1996, he defeated Steve Beshear by 12.6%, [180] even as Bill Clinton narrowly carried the state. McConnell's campaign ran television ads warning voters to not "Get BeSheared" and included images of sheep being sheared. [178]

In 2002, he was unopposed in the Republican primary. He then defeated Lois Combs Weinberg by 29.4%. [181]

In 2008, McConnell faced his closest contest since 1990. He defeated Bruce Lunsford by 6%. [19]

In 2014, McConnell faced Louisville businessman Matt Bevin in the Republican primary. [182] The 60.2% won by McConnell was the lowest voter support for a Kentucky U.S. senator in a primary since 1938. [183] He faced Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in the general election, and defeated Grimes, 56.2–40.7%. [184] [185]

In the November 2020 general election, McConnell faced Democratic nominee Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot and Libertarian nominee Brad Barron, a businessman and farmer. [186] [187] During the campaign, McConnell and McGrath agreed to one hour-long, socially distanced debate on October 12. [188] [189] McConnell was elected to his seventh term on November 3 when he defeated McGrath. [190] With the 2020 win, McConnell has now won every county in Kentucky. [191]

McConnell is a Southern Baptist, baptized at age 8. [192] He was married to his first wife, Sherrill Redmon, from 1968 to 1980 and had three daughters. [193] Following their divorce, she became a feminist scholar at Smith College and director of the Sophia Smith Collection. [194] [195] His second wife, whom he married in 1993, is Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush and Secretary of Transportation under President Donald Trump. [196]

In 1997, he founded the James Madison Center for Free Speech, a Washington, D.C.-based legal defense organization. [197] [198]

In February 2003, McConnell underwent a triple heart bypass surgery in relation to blocked arteries at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. [199]

In 2010, the OpenSecrets website ranked McConnell one of the wealthiest members of the U.S. Senate, based on net household worth. [200] His personal wealth was increased after receiving a 2008 personal gift to him and his wife, given by his father-in-law James S. C. Chao after the death of McConnell's mother-in-law, whose value has been estimated to be $5–25 million. [201]

McConnell was inducted as a member of the Sons of the American Revolution on March 1, 2013. [202]

In May 2019, McConnell's brother-in-law Gordon Hartogensis, who is married to Chao's sister Grace, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), a part of the Labor Department. [203] [204] [205] [206] McConnell voted to confirm. [207]

McConnell is on the Board of Selectors of Jefferson Awards for Public Service. [208]

McConnell's detractors have called him by a number of nicknames, including "Moscow Mitch", [209] "Cocaine Mitch", [209] the "Grim Reaper", [172] "Darth Vader", [210] "Rich Mitch", [211] "Nuclear Mitch", [210] and "Midnight Mitch". [212] McConnell is known to embrace several of them however, he objected strenuously to the nickname "Moscow Mitch". [209] [213]

Host Jon Stewart repeatedly mocked McConnell on The Daily Show for his resemblance to a turtle or tortoise. [214] [215] McConnell has been portrayed by Beck Bennett in various sketches on Saturday Night Live. [216] In 2017, McConnell was portrayed satirically on an episode of South Park. [217]

During the 2014 campaign season, McConnell was lampooned for posting campaign B-roll footage online for use by allied PACs. Various Internet posters satirically interspersed the B-roll with footage from sitcoms and movies, and popular music. The practice – either of posting B-roll footage online for usage by PACs, or of lampooning the B-roll – was termed "McConnelling". [218] [219] [220]

In 2015 and 2019, Time listed McConnell as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. [4] [221]

Steny Hoyer

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Steny Hoyer, in full Steny Hamilton Hoyer, (born June 14, 1939, New York City, New York, U.S.), American Democratic politician, a representative from Maryland in the U.S. House of Representatives (1981– ), where he served as majority leader (2007–11 2019– ) and minority whip (2011–19). In 2007 he became the longest-serving member of the House from Maryland.

Hoyer first became interested in politics when he heard John F. Kennedy give a campaign speech at the University of Maryland, College Park (B.A., 1963). He later attended law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. (J.D., 1966), and, campaigning on a platform of fair housing, ran a successful bid for the Maryland state senate in 1966. In 1975, at age 35, he became the youngest person ever to hold the office of president of the state senate. Hoyer joined the U.S. House of Representatives in 1981 through a special election after Rep. Gladys Noon Spellman’s seat was left vacant by illness he subsequently won reelection.

Hoyer served as his party’s caucus chairman from 1989 to 1995. He was defeated twice in elections for the post of party whip—by Rep. David Bonior in 1991 and by Rep. Nancy Pelosi in 2001. There was sometimes tension between Hoyer and Pelosi (who became speaker of the House in 2007), especially when she supported Rep. John Murtha in his unsuccessful bid against Hoyer to become majority leader in 2006.

In the House, Hoyer built a reputation as a moderate liberal. He was a strong supporter of the Americans with Disabilities Act (signed into law by Republican Pres. George H.W. Bush in 1990), which prohibited employers from discriminating against people with disabilities and mandated improvements in their access to educational facilities and public transportation. In 1990 Hoyer supported the Federal Employee Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA), which granted a 5 percent pay raise to federal employees the law was passed after several federal agencies reported that they were constantly losing workers to the private sector, where pay was much higher. After the bitterly contested presidential election of 2000 and the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, Hoyer supported the Help America Vote Act (2002), which sought to eliminate obstacles to voting and to guarantee that every provisional ballot (cast by a person whose eligibility to vote in a certain district is questioned) is counted.

Following the 2006 midterm elections, Democrats gained control of the House, and Hoyer was elected majority leader. After Democrat Barack Obama assumed the presidency in 2009, Hoyer supported many of his policies, helping to pass the $787 billion stimulus package (2009) and health care reform (2010). In the 2010 midterms the Democrats lost their majority in the House. Shortly thereafter Hoyer was elected minority whip. He continued in that post until Democrats regained control of the House following the 2018 midterms. In January 2019 he was reelected majority leader.

Early Life

Thomas "Tip" O'Neill was born December 9, 1912, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father was a bricklayer and local politician who served on the city council in Cambridge and later landed a patronage job as the city's sewer commissioner.

As a boy, O'Neill picked up the nickname Tip and was known by that for the rest of his life. The nickname was a reference to a professional baseball player of the era.

O'Neill was socially popular in his youth, but not a great student. His ambition was to become mayor of Cambridge. After working as a truck driver, he entered Boston College and graduated in 1936. He tried law school for a time but did not like it.

As a college senior he ran for local office, and lost the only election he would ever lose. The experience taught him a valuable lesson: he had assumed his neighbors would vote for him, but some of them did not.

When he asked why, the answer was blunt: "You never asked us." In later life, O'Neill always told young politicians to never pass up a chance to ask someone for their vote.

In 1936 he was elected to the Massachusetts state legislature. He concentrated on political patronage and arranged for many of his constituents to receive state jobs. When the legislature was out of session, he worked in the Cambridge city treasurer's office.

After losing his city job due to a local political rivalry, he entered the insurance business, which became his occupation for years. He remained in the Massachusetts legislature, and in 1946 was elected the minority leader in the lower house. He engineered a successful strategy for the Democrats to take control of the chamber in 1948, and became the youngest speaker in the Massachusetts legislature.

The Role of the House Majority Leader: An Overview

Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
The Role of the House Majority Leader: An Overview
The majority leader in the contemporary House is second-in-command behind
the Speaker of the majority party. Typically, the majority leader functions as the
Speaker’s chief lieutenant or “field commander” for day-to-day management of the
floor. Although the majority leader’s duties are not especially well-defined, they
have evolved to the point where it is possible to spotlight two fundamental and often
interlocking responsibilities that orient the majority leader’s work: institutional and
From an institutional perspective, the majority leader has a number of duties.
Scheduling floor business is a prime responsibility of the majority leader. Although
scheduling the House’s business is a collective activity of the majority party, the
majority leader has a large say in shaping the chamber’s overall agenda and in
determining when, whether, how, or in what order legislation is taken up. In
addition, the majority leader is active in constructing winning coalitions for the
party’s legislative priorities acting as a public spokesman — defending and
explaining the party’s program and agenda serving as an emissary to the White
House, especially when the President is of the same party and facilitating the orderly
conduct of the House’s business.
From a party perspective, three key activities undergird the majority leader’s
principal goal of trying to ensure that the party remains in control of the House. First,
the majority leader assists in the reelection campaigns of party incumbents by, for
example, raising campaign funds and traveling to scores of House districts to
campaign either with incumbents or challengers of the party. Second, the majority
leader promotes the party’s agenda by developing themes and issues important to
core supporters in the electorate. Third, the majority leader encourages party
cohesion by, for instance, working to minimize internal factional disagreements that
may undermine the majority party’s ability to govern the House.

Origin of the Majority Leader Position. 2
Institutional . 5
Scheduling Floor Business. 5
Manage Floor Decision Making. 6
Public Spokesman. 7
Confer with the White House. 8
Facilitate the Conduct of Business. 9
Party . 10
Assist Colleagues’ Reelection Campaigns. 10
Promote the Party’s Agenda. 10
Encourage Party Cohesion. 11
Final Observation. 12
Appendix 1. House Majority Leaders, 1899-2006. 13

The Role of the House Majority Leader:
An Overview
The majority leader in the contemporary House is second-in-command behind
the Speaker of the majority party. Typically, the majority leader functions as the
Speaker’s chief lieutenant or “field commander” for day-to-day management of the
floor. “I’m the Speaker’s agent,” stated a recent majority leader. 1 Another majority
leader said: “I see it that [the Speaker] is the chairman of the board and I am the chief
executive officer.” 2 Or as one Speaker put it, the majority leader’s “job is to run the
floor and keep monitoring committees and legislation.” 3
Elected every two years by secret ballot of the party caucus or conference, the
majority leader is usually an experienced legislator. For example, Representative
Richard Armey of Texas became the GOP’s first majority leader in 40 years when
Republicans won control of the 104 th House in the November 1994 elections. Armey
began his House service in 1985, became GOP Conference chairman during the 103 rd
Congress, and was one of the principal authors of the Republican “Contract with
America.” When Richard Gephardt, D-MO, became majority leader in June 1989,
he had been in the House for more than a decade, had served as chairman of the
Democratic Caucus for four years, and had been a 1988 presidential candidate.
Two fundamental and often interlocking responsibilities orient the work of the
majority leader: institutional and party. From an institutional perspective, the
majority leader is principally responsible for exercising overall supervision of the
order of business on the floor, especially as it affects the party’s program. As Lewis
Deschler, the late House parliamentarian (1928-1974), wrote:
A party’s floor leader, in conjunction with other party leaders, plays an
influential role in the formulation of party policy and programs. He is
instrumental in guiding legislation favored by his party through the House, or in
resisting those programs of the other party that are considered undesirable by his
own party. He is instrumental in devising and implementing his party’s strategy
on the floor with respect to promoting or opposing legislation. He is kept
constantly informed as to the status of legislative business and as to the sentiment
of his party respecting particular legislation under consideration. Such
information is derived in part from the floor leader’s contacts with his party’s

1 Mark Wegner, “The Speaker’s Agent,” National Journal’s CongressDailyAM, May 14,

2 Jonathan Kaplan, “Hastert, DeLay: Political Pros Get Along To Go Along,” The Hill, July

3 Alan Ota, “Setbacks Test Hastert’s Leadership Style,” CQ Today, May 4, 2005, p. 24.
members serving on House committees, and with the members of the party’s 4
whip organization.
From a partisan perspective, the majority leader’s paramount assignment is to
employ his or her talents, energy, and knowledge of procedural rules and political
circumstances to insure that the party maintains majority control of the House. Each
of these major responsibilities gives rise to a wide range of leadership activities.
Before discussing the primary duties of the majority leader, it is worth highlighting
the historical origins of this party position.
Origin of the Majority Leader Position
Congressional scholars assert that in 1899 Speaker David Henderson, R-Iowa, 5
appointed Sereno E. Payne, R-NY, as the first officially designated majority leader.
Prior to this date, there is neither an accurate nor complete compilation of House
majority leaders. Two factors seem to account for the absence of a compilation.
First, it took many decades before anything like our modern party structure emerged th
in the House. As a result, not until nearly the end of the 19 century did the position
of “majority leader” become a recognized party office. Second, neither official
congressional sources nor party records of this early period identify a lawmaker as
the majority floor leader.
Several historians of the House suggest that from the chamber’s early
beginnings various lawmakers informally assumed the role of “floor leader.” Usually,
but not always, these informal party leaders were the chairs of either the Committee
on Ways and Means (established in 1795) or the Committee on Appropriations
(following its creation in 1865). Speakers often appointed either their allies or their
principal rivals for the speakership to head these panels. Explained the late Floyd M.
Riddick, a political scientist who served as parliamentarian of the Senate from 1951
to 1975:
In the House, the early titular floor leaders were at the same time the chairmen
of the Ways and Means Committee. Before the division of the work of that
committee, the duties of its chairmen were so numerous that they automatically
became the actual leaders, since as chairmen of that committee they had to direct
the consideration of most of the legislation presented to the House. From 1865
until 1896 the burden of handling most of the legislation was shifted to the
chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who then was designated most
frequently as the leader. From 1896 until 1910 once again the chairmen of the
Ways and Means Committee were usually sought as the floor leaders. During all
of these years before the “Cannon revolution” of 1910, the Speaker, who
appointed all members to committees, saw to it that his party opponent for

4 Lewis Deschler, Deschler’s Precedents of the United States House of Representatives, Vol.

1 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1977), pp. 211-212.

5 Randall B. Ripley, Party Leaders in the House of Representatives (Washington, DC: The
Brookings Institution, 1967), p. 24.
Speakership, some Representative with a large following, or one of his faithful 6
lieutenants was made the floor leader.
Thus, these early titular floor leaders were appointed by the Speaker rather than
chosen separately, as occurs today, by vote of the majority party caucus. 7
(Appendix 1 contains a list of House majority leaders since 1899.)
When the House “revolted” in 1910 against the autocratic leadership of Speaker
Joseph Cannon, R-Ill., the power to designate the floor leader was taken away from
the Speaker. In 1911, with Democrats in charge of the House, Oscar Underwood of
Alabama became the first elected (by the party caucus) majority leader in the House’s
history. (Subsequently, all Democratic floor leaders have been selected in this
manner.) Underwood also chaired the Ways and Means Committee and his party’s
committee assignment panel. The political reality was that Majority Leader
Underwood’s influence in the House exceeded that of the Speaker, Champ Clark of
Missouri. “For the first time the leader of the House was not at the rostrum, but was
on the floor.” 8 Probably no majority leader ever has matched Underwood’s party
power and institutional influence. (Underwood left the House for the Senate in 1915.)
When Republicans reclaimed majority control of the House in 1919, Franklin
Mondell of Wyoming, a high ranking member of the Appropriations Committee,
became majority leader upon nomination by the GOP committee assignment panel.
(Four years later the GOP Conference began the practice of electing their majority 9
leader.) Mondell set the contemporary practice of majority leaders usually
relinquishing their committee positions, and always any committee chairmanships,

6 Floyd M. Riddick, The United States Congress: Organization and Procedure (Manassas,
Va.: National Capitol Publishers, Inc., 1949), p. 86. For further historical information about
the floor leader, see DeAlva Stanwood Alexander, History and Procedure of the House of
Representatives (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1916), Chapter VII Garrison Nelson,
“Leadership Position-Holding in the United States House of Representatives,” Capitol
Studies, Fall 1976, pp. 11-36 and the Congressional Record - Appendix, vol. 102, Mar. 20,
1956, pp. A2489-A2494. The Record insertion is a report on the majority leadership
prepared by George B. Galloway for then-House Majority Leader John McCormack, D-MA.
7 Early House members also recognized that certain lawmakers informally assumed floor
leadership roles on behalf of presidents or executive officials. For example, in 1789
Congress requested Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton to prepare a plan to deal with
the public debt. Representatives Fisher Ames and Theodore Sedgwick of Massachusetts and
Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut “served as Hamilton’s lieutenants on the chamber floor,
exercising some control over what proposals were made and how they were voted on by
coordinating Hamilton’s supporters in the House.” John H. Aldrich, Why Parties? The
Origin and Transformation of Party Politics in America (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1995) , p. 79. President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) also relied on trusted House
members to function as de facto floor leaders to shepherd his program through the House.
8 George Rothwell Brown, The Leadership of Congress (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill
Co., 1922), p. 176. Also see James S. Fleming, “Oscar W. Underwood: The First Modern
House Leader, 1911-1915,” in Roger H. Davidson, et. al., eds., Masters of the House:
Congressional Leadership Over Two Centuries (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1998), pp.

9 Ripley, Party Leaders in the House of Representatives, p. 25.
upon assuming this important and busy post. To be sure, there have been exceptions
to the practice of majority leaders not serving on standing committees. 10
April 15, 1929, the start of the 71 st Congress, witnessed a first-ever event that
remains the practice to this day: the official announcement in the House of the
selection of the majority leader. Representative Willis Hawley of Oregon, the
chairman of the majority Republican caucus addressed the presiding officer: “Mr.
Speaker, the Republican caucus of the House has reelected Hon. John Q. Tilson, of
Connecticut, majority leader for the Seventy-first Congress.” As House precedents
state, “this was the first occasion of the official announcement of the selection of
party leaders in the House.” 11
Separate election of the majority leader by the party caucus elevated the status
and influence of the person who held this position. The majority leader soon became
the “heir apparent” to the speakership. In the modern House, no Democrat has been
elected Speaker without having been the majority leader immediately prior to his
elevation. Republicans, the minority party for 40 consecutive years until the mid-
1990s, do not have as well-defined a leadership succession ladder. When Speaker
Newt Gingrich, R-GA., retired from the House at the end of the 105 th Congress,
Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston, R-LA., moved quickly and lined up the
necessary votes to be the next Speaker. However, when Livingston announced that
he planned to resign from the House for personal reasons soon after the 106 th
Congress began, Republicans chose their chief deputy whip, Dennis J. Hastert of
Illinois, to be the next Speaker.
Unfortunately, there is scant scholarly commentary about the duties and
functions that devolved upon the informal floor leaders of the pre-20 th century period.
Nor are the duties and functions of today’s majority leaders spelled out in the House
rulebook or in party rules, although those sources make brief reference to the
position. As a recent majority leader stated, “[E]ach leadership position is defined by

10 For example, starting in the 1970s, Democratic majority leaders held leadership-
designated positions on the Budget Committee and served ex officio on the Permanent
Select Intelligence Committee. Since Republicans took control of the House in the mid-

1990s, the majority leader has held no standing committee positions. However, in 2002,

Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-TX), chaired a Select Committee on Homeland Security.
This panel assembled the recommendations of several standing committees to craft
legislation (H.R. 5005) authorizing the creation of a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland
Security. As an historical point of interest, it is worth noting that Underwood’s successor
as majority leader was North Carolinian Claude Kitchin (1915-1919), who also served as
chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. However, Kitchin disapproved of President
Wilson’s war policies and his floor and committee roles proved to be “cumbersome and
impractical,” as one scholar wrote. “A separation of the two roles was effected after the
Democrats became the minority in 1919. Ever since then, the majority leader’s job has
existed as a full-time position.” See Nelson Polsby, “The Institutionalization of the U.S.
House of Representatives,” American Political Science Review, Sept. 1968, pp. 157-158.
11 Clarence Cannon, Cannon’s Precedents of the House of Representatives of the United
States, Vol. VIII (Washington: GPO, 1935), p. 957.
the person who holds it. It’s not defined by a job description.” 12 In short, factors
such as tradition, custom, context, and personality have largely defined the
fundamental institutional and party roles and responsibilities of the majority leader.
Several of the most important of these two overlapping categories merit mention.
However, it bears repeating that the scope of the majority leader’s role in carrying
out these assignments is shaped significantly by the Speaker and the sentiments of
the majority party caucus or conference.
The style and role of any majority leader is influenced by a plethora of elements,
including personality and contextual factors, such as the closeness of his relationship
with the Speaker, the size and cohesion of the majority party, whether the party
controls the White House, the general political environment in the House, and the
controversial nature of the legislative agenda. Despite the variability of these factors,
a number of institutional assignments are now associated with the majority leader,
and Members of each party expect him or her to perform them. To be sure, the
majority leader is provided with extra staff resources beyond those accorded him or
her as a House member to assist in carrying out these diverse leadership functions.
Majority Leader Armey even established a new leadership post — “assistant majority th
leader”— at the start of the 106 Congress and named two Republican colleagues as
assistant majority leaders. Their assignment was to assist him on “floor scheduling,
legislative and communications strategy, the policy agenda, and leadership
decisions.” 13
Scheduling Floor Business
Although scheduling is a collective activity of the majority party, the majority
leader has a large say in shaping the chamber’s overall agenda and in determining
when, whether, how, and in what order legislation is taken up. Everything from
setting policy priorities drafting the schedule consulting with Members, committee
chairs, and the minority party in making up the schedule and announcing the
schedule on the floor are within the purview of the majority leader. Scheduling is a
complex process and the majority leader must juggle a wide range of considerations
and pressures. Five concerns illustrate the scheduling role of the majority leader.
First, the majority leader commonly lays out the daily, weekly, monthly, and
annual agenda of the House. Of course, scheduling and agenda-setting are
responsibilities done in close consultation with the Speaker, majority whip, and
others. The majority leader may specify in advance that certain priority bills are to
be taken up prior to a congressional recess he or she may even designate theme
weeks (“reform,” “high tech,” “families first,” and so on) for the consideration of
related bills. Typically, on Thursday after the House’s business for the day and week
is winding down, the majority leader will announce the projected agenda for each day

12 Ben Pershing, “DeLay Adjusting to His New Role,” Roll Call, Mar. 17, 2003, p. 3.
13 CQ Monitor, Jan. 21, 1999, p. 8.
of the next business week, identify when votes are expected to occur, and respond to
inquiries from Members about the House’s program of activities.
Second, a host of strategic considerations influence scheduling. For instance,
with an eye toward upcoming elections, the majority leader may schedule legislation
that better defines his or her party for the upcoming presidential and congressional
campaigns. He or she may not schedule a bill unless there is reasonable certainty that
the Senate will take floor action on it. The majority leader may also coordinate
strategy on measures with the Senate party counterpart. He or she may schedule floor
action at specific times — for instance, a constitutional amendment to ban flag
desecration just before July 4 — to maximize public attention on the issue. The
majority leader may use “deadline lawmaking,” indicating to Members that floor
action on certain legislation must occur before the House will adjourn for a district
work period. Or he or she may suggest general themes, messages, or strategies that
unify party colleagues around a set of domestic and international policies. A majority
leader may even propose his or her own annual legislative agenda — even if the
White House is controlled by the same party — and present it to the Speaker and the
party’s caucus or conference.
Third, majority leaders try to balance the House’s workload requirements with
Members’ family or personal obligations. “Family friendly” scheduling aims to
achieve better balance in the public and private lives of lawmakers. Fourth, majority
leaders advance or delay action on measures for a variety of reasons, including
whether they have the votes to achieve their objectives. To be sure, there are
occasions when measures are brought to the floor, and it is unclear whether they will
pass. Asked if a bill would pass, a majority leader replied: “Who knows? We’re
writing the bill on the floor.” 14
Fifth, majority leaders recognize that timing considerations suffuse the
lawmaking process. There are timetables to meet, pressures associated with the end-
of-session rush to adjourn, the electoral needs of individual Members, and a
multitude of other considerations that the majority leader must address as he strives
to accommodate the rank-and-file, committee chairs, the minority party, the
president, and his own extended party leadership. As one majority leader put it:
“You have to find that elusive grail of harmony among this most heterogeneous mix
of opinionated individualists.” 15
Manage Floor Decision Making
Majority leaders are active in constructing winning coalitions for their
legislative priorities. To this end, a majority leader will consult with the chair of the
Rules Committee to discuss procedures for considering legislation on the floor. For
example, an open or restricted amendment process might be options for discussion.
Or, the majority leader might decide to call up a bill under suspension of the rules

14 Andrew Taylor, “Budget Enforcement Legislation Founders in the House,” CQ Today,
June 24, 2004, p. 1.
15 Julia Malone, “To Jim Wright, Being Majority Leader Is One Long Juggling Routine,”
Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 19, 1983, p. 40.
procedure, which limits debate and bars any amendments. To limit policy riders on
appropriations bills, the majority leader might invoke House Rule XXI, clause 2 (d).
This rule grants preference to the majority leader to end consideration of an
appropriations bill in the Committee of the Whole by offering a successful “motion
to rise.” 16
Majority leaders engage in many other activities to promote policy success on
the floor. They may, for instance, meet weekly or biweekly (more frequently, if
needed) with committee chairs, ad hoc groups, or individual lawmakers to persuade
them to support priority measures woo lawmakers through the provision of various
legislative services or rewards coordinate vote counts with the party whip
organization propose changes in bills to attract support from wavering Members
reach out to lawmakers on the other side of the aisle craft “leadership
amendments”designed to attract majority support synchronize strategic activities
with majority floor managers and rally outside support for the party’s legislative
issues and political messages.
Majority leaders may also take on other functions relevant to floor action. To
forge winning coalitions, for instance, they engage in deal-making, appeal to
Members’ party loyalty, enlist allies to overcome resistance to policy-party
objectives, devote considerable time and energy in promoting consensus among
colleagues, and work behind-the-scenes to get things done. Majority leaders might
also encourage party colleagues to deliver one-minute, morning hour, or special order
speeches that spotlight the party’s program and defend it against criticism from the
other party.
Public Spokesman
There are two interconnected dimensions associated with this role: external and
internal. Externally, especially in this 󈬈/7” news cycle and Internet era, majority
leaders are national newsmakers. When he became majority leader in 1973, Thomas
P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr., D-MA., said, “the media couldn’t stay away . I was interviewed

16 The Rules of the House make specific reference to the majority leader in several other
instances. Rule II, clause 6, states that the House’s inspector general “shall be appointed for
a Congress by the Speaker, the Majority leader, and the Minority Leader, acting jointly.”
Rule II, clause 8, states that the “Office of General Counsel shall function pursuant to the
direction of the Speaker, who shall consult with a Bipartisan Leadership Advisory Group,
which shall include the majority and minority leaderships.” Under Rule IX, a question of
privilege offered from the floor by the majority leader “shall have precedence of all other
questions except motions to adjourn.” Under Rule X, clause 2, not later than “March 31 in
the first session of a Congress, after consultation with the Speaker, the Majority Leader, and
the Minority Leader, the Committee on Government Reform shall report to the House the
oversight plans” of the standing committees along with any recommendation it or the House
leaders have proposed to ensure the effective coordination of committees’ oversight plans.
By tradition, the majority leader also serves as a member of the House Office Building
Commission, and he names three members to serve as Private Calendar objectors. In
addition, the majority leader may, after consultation with the Speaker, during any even-
numbered year convene an early organizational caucus or conference.
constantly.” 17 Majority leaders are expected to explain and defend the actions and
decisions of the House and their party to the general public. “The role of the majority
leader puts you in a spokesman role,” noted a recent majority leader. 18 Accordingly,
these leaders appear on the major network and cable television programs, the Sunday
morning news shows, talk radio, or Internet chat rooms. Periodically, they deliver
major addresses in diverse forums, and write articles or “op ed” pieces on the major
issues before the House. They meet with journalists and newspaper editors.
Regularly, they give news briefings (so-called pen and pad sessions) to reporters on
the schedule and agenda of the House, the priorities of the majority party, legislative-
executive relations, and sundry other topics.
Internally, majority leaders are ready on the floor to defend their party, program,
or President from criticism by the opposition. They participate in debate on measures
and may make the closing argument on legislation. Majority leaders rise to defend
the prerogatives of individual Members offer critiques and rebuttals to minority
party initiatives work with committee chairmen and others to coordinate and
integrate the party’s communication strategy employ floor speeches “to set the tone
on a newsworthy issue or provide the proscribed leadership perspective before a
major vote” 19 and may establish websites to provide information to House members
and others. In brief, majority leaders generally function as their party’s chief
spokesman on the floor and in other forums as well.
Sometimes the internal and external roles coincide when majority leaders
introduce legislation, monitor executive branch actions, or champion proposals
nationally. For example, Majority Leader Armey and another GOP colleague
traveled the country in a “Scrap the Code Tour,” a “national campaign to take the tax
reform debate directly to the American people.” 20 Armey also attracted national
attention with respect to his legislative efforts to monitor executive branch
implementation of a 1993 law designed to measure the performance of government
programs. 21
Confer with the White House
Majority leaders regularly attend meetings at the White House — especially
when the President is of the same party — to discuss issues before Congress, the
Administrations’s agenda, and political events generally. For example, the joint
bipartisan congressional leadership, including the House majority leader, may meet

17 Speaker Tip O’Neill, Man of the House (New York: Random House, 1987), pp. 226-227.
18 Jim VanDeHei, “DeLay Nears Top of House He Reshaped,” The Washington Post, Nov.

19 Susan Crabtree, “DeLay Will Deliver a `Speech of the Week’,” Roll Call, Jan. 29, 2003,
p. 13.
20 Dick Armey and Billy Tauzin, “Should We Scrap the System,” Los Angeles Times, Oct.

21 Stephen Barr, “House Leader Flunks Agencies’ Plans,” The Washington Post, Aug. 27,

at the White House to discuss agenda priorities for the year. 22 There are occasions,
too, when the President will journey to Capitol Hill to meet with the top leaders of
Congress. There are instances as well where majority leaders can be sharp critics of
the President. Majority leaders consult with executive branch officials plus scores
of other individuals (foreign dignitaries, governors, mayors, and so on.)
Majority leaders may also be active on international issues: brokering foreign
policy compromises with the White House, championing the interests of certain
nations, or criticizing some foreign governments. In general, anyone who occupies
the House’s number two leadership post has strengthened leverage with the White
House and greater public prominence on international issues. “People are now
listening to what I’ve been saying because I’m majority leader,” declared a former
holder of the post. 23
Strategically, the role of majority leaders will be different depending on whether
the President is of the same party. In general, majority leaders will strive to advance
the goals and aspirations of their party’s President in the Congress. If the President
is of the opposite party, then the procedural and political situation is more
complicated. When should the majority leader cooperate with the President? When
should he or she urge the House to reject Administration policies? When should he
or she propose alternatives to the President’s priorities? In brief, the majority leader,
the Speaker, and their other party colleagues need to determine when to function as
the “governing” party in the House and when to act as the “loyal opposition.”
Facilitate the Conduct of Business
To expedite the work of the House, a wide range of other responsibilities is
typically performed by the majority leader. For example, the majority leader may ask
unanimous consent that when the House adjourns that it meet again at a specific date
and time. He or she may ask unanimous consent to dispense with the Calendar
Wednesday rule. The majority leader may either appoint people to certain boards or
commissions or be self-named to various commissions or boards. He or she may
lead congressional delegations to different parts of the world. The majority leader
may act as Speaker pro tempore offer resolutions affecting the operations of the
House, such as establishing the hour of daily meeting of the House perform various
ceremonial duties and support initiatives to revamp or reform the internal procedures
and structures of the House. In brief, the majority leader is responsible, along with
other Members of the leadership, for insuring the orderly conduct of House business.

22 See Ethan Wallison, “Adding DeLay Makes It a ‘Gang of Five’,” Roll Call, Mar. 6, 2003,
p. 3.
23 Juliet Eilperin, “Mideast Rises on DeLay’s Agenda,” The Washington Post, Oct. 16, 2003,
p. A7.
The majority leader, former Speaker “Tip” O’Neill once said, “helps set policy 24
and carries out the duties assigned to him by the Speaker.” One of the most
important duties of the majority leader is to try to ensure that his or her party remains
in control of the House. After all, legislative organization is party organization. The
majority party sets the agenda of the House and controls all committee and
subcommittee chairmanships. Thus, along with other party leaders and Members, the
majority leader works in numerous ways to help elect and reelect rank-and-file
partisan colleagues, to forge unity on priority legislation, and to promote a favorable
public image of the majority party. Three activities of the majority leader illustrate
these points.
Assist Colleagues’ Reelection Campaigns
Majority leaders are typically energetic campaigners on behalf of their partisan
colleagues. They assist incumbents and challengers in raising campaign funds, and
they travel to scores of House districts to campaign with either incumbents or
challengers of their party. Majority leaders develop computer-based campaign donor
lists, so they can funnel campaign funds quickly to electoral contests establish their
own “leadership PACs” to raise money and then donate money from their political
action committee to candidates of their party help to raise large sums of money so
campaign ads can be run on television and elsewhere in the months leading up to the
November election and coordinate their campaign activities with congressional,
national, and state party campaign organizations and encourage outside groups and
allies to raise money for the party. Majority leaders assist in recruiting qualified
challengers to take on incumbents. They promote get-out-the-vote drives, in part by
devising strategies to energize their party’s grassroots supporters. In short, majority
leaders are heavily engaged in the electoral campaigns of many party candidates.
Their ultimate goals: to retain their majority status and, if possible, to increase the
number in their ranks.
Promote the Party’s Agenda
Majority leaders may undertake a variety of actions to accomplish this goal.
They develop legislative agendas and themes that address issues important to core
supporters and swing voters in the electorate. These agendas may be posted on their
websites. A key aim of this form of “message sending” is to animate and activate
their electoral base to turn out on election day. Another objective is to develop
electorally attractive ideas and proposals that may enable their party to retain or
retake the House, the Senate, or even the presidency.
The majority leader may help to organize “town meetings” in Members’
districts, which publicize and promote the party’s agenda or a specific priority, such
as health care or tax cuts. He or she may sponsor party “retreats” to discuss issues
and to evaluate the party’s public image. The majority leader may also distribute

24 O’Neill, Man of the House, pp. 218-219.
reports, memorandums, briefing books, and videotapes that highlight partisan
campaign issues conduct surveys of party colleagues to discern their priorities
organize “issue teams” or “task forces” composed of junior and senior lawmakers to
formulate specific party programs and form “message groups” or “theme teams” to
map media strategies to foster favorable press coverage of party initiatives.
Sometimes the majority leader will attend partisan luncheons with Senators to
better coordinate inter-chamber action on the party’s legislative and message agenda.
“We’re having more bicameral meetings,” remarked a majority leader, “so that . we
understand what each other is doing . and what can and can’t be done.” 25 Majority
leaders are also named as conferees on major bills “to represent the overall interests
of the [majority] leadership.” 26 In brief, the majority leader is a key strategist in
promoting the party’s agenda, in outlining ways to neutralize the opposition’s
arguments and proposals, and in determining when it is better to compromise with
the other party on policy priorities or have no agreement.
Encourage Party Cohesion
If a party is to maintain its majority, it is generally a good idea to minimize
internal factional feuds or disagreements that may undermine its ability to govern the
House. One majority leader explained this job as a “combination of evangelist,
parish priest, and part-time prophet. You have to be a peacemaker in the family.” 27
To forge party cohesion means, in part, that majority leaders will consult widely with
the diverse factions within their party they will argue the need for party loyalty on
crucial procedural and substantive votes they will try to offer persuasive arguments
that “educate” colleagues on a measure’s policy and political benefits and they will
schedule breakfasts, lunches, or dinners to keep in touch with party members and to
listen to their concerns. Aiding the majority leader in these efforts is his membership
on various party units, such as policy committees or the committee-on-committees.
Majority leaders may also enlist the support of outsiders, such as lobbyists, to
assist in building party cohesion. In fact, majority leaders may develop an external
network of contacts in universities, think tanks, or consulting firms to function as an
informal “brain trust” in policy development and in strategic analysis, suggesting
how the majority party might mobilize the support required to enact their ideas into
law. Majority leaders, then, work to boost their party’s fortunes internally and
externally by acting as a political cheerleader, negotiator, consensus-builder, and

25 Alan Ota, “DeLay Sees Improvement in Communications Between House, Senate
Leaders,” CQ Today, Mar. 3, 2005, p. 6.
26 Alan Ota, “Hastert Calls on DeLay as ‘Super Conferee’,” CQ Today, May 23, 2005, p. 1.
27 Malone, “To Jim Wright, Being Majority Leader is One Long Juggling Routine,” p. 40.
Final Observation
The majority leader’s duties and functions, although not well-defined and
contingent in part on his or her relationship with the Speaker, have evolved to the
point where it is possible to highlight the customary institutional and party
responsibilities. As one majority leader said about his institutional duties: “The
Majority Leader has prime responsibility for the day-to-day working of the House,
the schedule, working with the committees to keep an eye out for what bills are
coming, getting them scheduled, getting the work of the House done, making the
place function correctly.” On the party side, the majority leader added: “[Y]ou are
also compelled to try to articulate to the outside world what [your party stands] for, 28

what [your party is] fighting for, what [your party is] doing.”
28 Christopher Madison, “Message Bearer,” National Journal, Dec. 1, 1990, p. 2906.
Appendix 1. House Majority Leaders, 1899-2006
Majority LeaderCongress
Sereno E. Payne, R-NY56 th (1899-1901)
Payne57 th (1901-1903)
Payne58 th (1903-1905)
Payne59 th (1905-1907)
Payne60 th (1907-1909)
Payne61 st (1909-1911)
Oscar W. Underwood, D-AL62 nd (1911-1913)
Underwood63 rd (1913-1915)
Claude Kitchin, D-NC64 th (1915-1917)
Kitchin65 th (1917-1919)
Franklin W. Mondell, R-WY66 th (1919-1921)
Mondell67 th (1921-1923)
Nicholas Longworth, R-OH68 th (1923-1925)
John Q. Tilson, R-CT69 th (1925-1927)
Tilson70 th (1927-1929)
Tilson71 st (1929-1931)
Henry T. Rainey, D-IL72 nd (1931-1933)
Joseph W. Byrns, D-TN73 rd (1933-1935)
William B. Bankhead, D-AL a 74 th (1935-1937)
Sam Rayburn, D-Texas75 th (1937-1939)
Rayburn/John W. McCormack, D-MA b 76 th (1939-1941)
McCormack77 th (1941-1943)
McCormack78 th (1943-1945)
McCormack79 th (1945-1947)
Charles A. Halleck, R-IN80 th (1947-1949)
McCormack81 st (1949-1951)
McCormack82 nd (1951-1953)
Halleck83 rd (1953-1955)
McCormack84 th (1955-1957)
McCormack85 th (1957-1959)
McCormack86 th (1959-1961)
McCormack/Carl Albert, D-OK c 87 th (1961-1963)
Albert88 th (1963-1965)

Majority LeaderCongress
Albert89 th (1965-1967)
Albert90 th (1967-1969)
Albert91 st (1969-1971)
Hale Boggs, D-LA92 nd (1971-1973)
Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., D-Mass.93 rd (1973-1975)
O’Neill94 th (1975-1977)
Jim Wright, D-TX95 th (1977-1979)
Wright96 th (1979-1981)
Wright97 th (1981-1983)
Wright98 th (1983-1985)
Wright99 th (1985-1987)
Thomas S. Foley, D-WA100 th (1987-1989)
Foley/Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo. d 101 st (1989-1991)
Gephardt102 nd (1991-1993)
Gephardt103 rd (1993-1995)
Richard Armey, R-TX104 th (1995-1997)
Armey105 th (1997-1999)
Armey106 th (1999-2001)
Armey107 th (2001-2003)
Tom DeLay, R-TX108 th (2003-2005)
DeLay/John Boehner, R-OH e 109 th (2005-2007)
Sources : C ongr es s i onal Q uar t e r l y’s G u i d e t o C ongr es s , Fif t h Ed itio n , Vo l. I I , W a sh in g t o n , DC: CQ
Pres s , 2000), pp. 1102- 1103 G e org e A r ch i b al d, “ G O P El ev at es D e L a y T o H o u s e Maj o ri t y L eader,”
T h e W a s h i ngt on T i m e s , N o v e m b er 14, 2002, p. A 1 S u s a n F e rrech i o a n d A l a n O t a, “ C h a rg e T a k e s
DeL a y Ou t o f L i n e u p ,” C Q T oday , S e pt em ber 29, 2005, p. 1 an d A l an O t a, “ U ps et Wi n C o m e s Wi t h
Ex pectation s ,” C Q T oday , F e bru a ry 3, 2006, p. 1.
a. Ban k h ead becam e S p eak er of th e Hou s e on Ju n e 4, 1936. T h e pos t of m a j o r i t y l e a d e r r e m a in ed
v acan t u n til th e n e x t Co n g r ess.
b. McC o rm ack becam e m a j o rity leader on Sept. 26, 1940, f illin g th e v acan cy cau s e d by th e elev ation
of R a y b u r n t o t h e pos t of S p eak er of t h e H o u s e on S e pt . 16, 1940.
c. A l bert becam e m a j o rity leader on J a n u a ry 10, 1962, f illin g th e v acan cy cau s e d by th e elev ation of
McC o rm ack to th e pos t of Speak er of th e Hou s e, als o on J a n u a ry 10.
d. Geph ardt becam e m a j o rity leader on J u n e 14, 1989, f illin g th e v acan cy created w h e n F o l e y
s u cceeded Wrig h t as S p eak er of th e Hou s e on Ju n e 6, 1989.
e. O n S e pt em ber 25, 2005, Maj o ri t y L eader D e L a y s t epped dow n f r om h i s pos t . Maj o ri t y Wh i p R o y
B l u n t , R - MO, s e rv ed as in terim m a j o rity leader u n t i l Oh io R e pu blican J o h n B o eh n e r w a s elected
t o be t h e n e w m a j o ri t y l eader on F e bru a ry 2, 2006, by t h e H o u s e R e pu bl i can C o n f eren ce.