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The Journal Gazette

  • U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., laughs with Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th, at a VIP reception at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Monday.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 1:00 am

Majority leader speaks to local GOP

McCarthy tells Bean Dinner crowd onus on Senate

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The first nine months of the current Congress have been historically productive, according to a high-ranking Republican legislator – at least on one side of Capitol Hill.

The other side, not so much.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy offered a list of House GOP accomplishments during a speech Monday to about 350 local Republicans gathered at the Ramada Plaza Hotel and Conference Center.

The repeal of financial industry regulations and the Affordable Care Act. The passage of all 12 federal appropriations bills and a federal budget. Anti-abortion and anti-human trafficking legislation.

“We have 286 bills sitting in the Senate. We have to break that logjam,” the California lawmaker said at the Allen County Republican Party's yearly Reagan Bean Dinner.

McCarthy did not mention any GOP senators by name when he said, “But if you're not strong enough to say you're going to repeal Obamacare and then vote that way, you don't deserve to stay in the office.” The line drew applause.  

The Republican-controlled Senate has failed to advance legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, because of opposition to bills by as many as nine GOP senators. One of them, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has been critical of his party for rushing the proposals and refusing to run them through committee hearings and votes.

In introducing McCarthy to Monday's audience, Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, said the House majority leader “is instrumental to carrying out the Trump agenda on Capitol Hill. There's a reason the president calls him 'my Kevin.'”

McCarthy said he meets often with President Donald Trump and admires him.

“Yeah, he's a disrupter. That's exactly what we need,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy, 52, who joined the House in 2007, is its highest-ranking member behind House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. The local GOP typically attracts nationally known Republican leaders to its Reagan Bean Dinner. Speakers in recent years have included Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.

Naturally, McCarthy complained about Democrats, including former presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. He called left-leaning cable news outlet MSNBC “the only network that has more letters than viewers.”

But he also referenced the dinner's namesake, former President Ronald Reagan, in calling for Republicans to try to appeal to a broader constituency.

“We think we are more conservative because we yell louder and we try to divide people further,” McCarthy said. “Reagan served during a tough time. But you know what? Reagan brought more people to the party who'd never been a part of it.

“We need more people to understand what we bring to this country,” he said.

McCarthy said the party, as did Reagan, believes that “peace without freedom is meaningless.” He contended that “there was no peace” in the international agreement supported by Obama that aims to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and that Trump “is correct” in trying to rework the deal.

Before McCarthy spoke, a slew of area elected officials and political candidates were introduced. Each spoke briefly to the dinner crowd.

“You've got more people running for office in this room than all of the Republicans in California,” McCarthy quipped later.

Among the candidates at the event were three of the six men running for the GOP nomination to face Donnelly in the 2018 general election: Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th; Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt; and New Albany college administrator Andrew Takami.