McCarthy stares down immigration protesters

McCarthy stares down immigration protesters


Originally published by Politico

Rep. Kevin McCarthy knows “history is against” Republican efforts to retain control of the House — though perhaps not as against him as the immigration protesters who shouted him down during a talk in Sacramento.

Speaking at a Public Policy Institute of California event, the House Majority Leader noted that the party in power has almost always surrendered seats during the midterm elections and said that Republicans need to surmount an enthusiasm gap, saying “the intensity level is greater on the Democratic side than on the Republican side.” Tasked with helping to safeguard the Republican House majority, McCarthy has been working to generate cash for endangered incumbents.

“I will leave here and get on a plane, I’ll go to Indianapolis, I’ll go to Iowa, I’ll go to Minneapolis, I’ll go to Omaha, Nebraska, and I’ll be back in California on Sunday and then I’ll be on the road again,” McCarthy told the audience at the non-partisan think tank. But there, too, his opponents have been successful: “Democrats have done quite well at raising money across the country outside of their districts,” he said.

McCarthy argued that Republicans have a built-in advantage from relying more on suburban districts while Democrats have their base in urban areas, which he said means “if we get 49 percent of the vote, we’ll get about 51, 53 percent of the seats.” And he predicted voters would reward Republicans for economic growth while rejecting Democratic overreach on immigration, healthcare and the drive to impeach President Donald Trump.

“Tom Steyer is out there wanting to capture government to impeach the president,” McCarthy said, referring to the California Democratic political activist who just dumped $10 million into a get-out-the-vote campaign aimed at people who have signed onto his impeachment campaign. “I don’t think America wants to turn over Congress to abolish ICE, destroy our healthcare system and just take over to impeach our president.”

McCarthy also worked in multiple references to a California gas tax repeal effort, which the GOP sees as a critical turnout driver for disaffected conservatives and independents here, saying it would be “the defining issue in this election.”

Immigration looms over House races in a handful of California swing districts, where Republicans like Rep. Jeff Denham — who represents an agricultural district that relies substantially on immigrant labor — are trying to forge a centrist path on the volatile issue.

If McCarthy was looking for a sign of the issue’s potency, it came about 20 minutes into his talk. Protesters began drowning him out with chants of “Where’s your heart?” and “If they don’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep.”

In the minutes before the outburst, McCarthy had touted votes on a pair of failed immigration measures as signs of Republican progress on immigration, saying that “I believe this president will actually solve immigration.”

But he also aligned himself with Trump’s positions by suggesting the “Abolish ICE” mantra indicates Democrats don’t support cracking down on the transnational MS-13 gang, assailing “sanctuary cities” and decrying the practice of freeing illegal border-crossers pending court dates, derided by Trump and his allies as “catch and release.” Demonstrators were clear on where they believe McCarthy stood.

“We haven’t seen anything but words” from McCarthy, Polo Morales, political director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Action Fund — which organized the protest and has spearheaded similar actions targeting incumbent California Republican Reps. Steve Knight, Mimi Walters and David Valadao — told POLITICO, saying he “has not taken the necessary leadership to push back against this administration.”

“A lot of these bills are really punitive — it’s more funding for the wall, it’s more enforcement,” Morales said in an interview.

After the protesters were led out, McCarthy lamented that “this country has become too divided” and faulted “elected officials who are trying to create us to be divided.” He did not answer reporters’ questions after the event.

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