House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has a difficult fight on his hands to win the 218 votes needed to become the next Speaker of the House.
Just a few weeks ago, McCarthy won a majority of votes from the House Republican caucus to win their nomination to be the next Speaker. But he did so while losing 31 votes on his own Republican side. In January, he will stand for election before the full House. With a very thin incoming majority, McCarthy can only stand to lose 4 votes if he wants to win the Speaker’s race.
His problems are compounded by the fact that he has a right-wing challenger – Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) – who is competing against him for Speaker. Some have speculated that the next Speaker may need to win Democratic votes, given the fractured nature of the House Republican caucus.
In the months before the midterms, Republicans and Democrats shared one clear policy priority that could become the issue that helps generate consensus in the Speaker’s race: banning members of Congress from trading individual stocks.
With Speaker Pelosi exiting her leadership position without having delivered a floor vote on a stock trading bill, Kevin McCarthy now has a chance to campaign on delivering change.
Nearly one year ago, in January 2022, McCarthy convened a House Republican retreat and informed Punchbowl News that if the Republicans were to win, he would move on a stock trading ban. The news generated positive headlines for McCarthy in a range of press outlets.
Shortly before the election, McCarthy made this concrete pledge at a press conference:
McCarthy: “This is something that we will do in the majority, putting new rules forward, knowing that people are not investing in a place that they have influence. … I think we have to bring trust back to this institution.”
Roughly a month from Election Day, McCarthy went on Fox News to rip Speaker Pelosi and her husband for stock trades and stated: “That all changes in 37 days!”
A ban on congressional stock trading is incredibly popular with the American public, often earning nearly 70 percent support in public polls and drawing together unlikely political bedfellows, ranging from progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to moderate Abigail Spanberger to conservatives Chip Roy and Matt Gaetz.
The last time Congress made a serious effort to address stock trading, it passed the Stock Act to require greater transparency around members and staff who buy and sell stocks. That was done with the support of a Democratic President (Obama) and a House Republican Majority Leader (Eric Cantor).
Since the November midterm elections, Kevin McCarthy has gone silent on his pledge to take on stock trading. Will he pledge to hold a floor vote on it? If so, it could generate broad bipartisan support, just as it did in 2012 in a divided Congress. President Biden, who didn’t own a single stock during his long career in Congress, would almost certainly welcome a Republican effort to send a stock trading ban to his desk.