WASHINGTON (AP) — House Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy told religious conservatives Friday he knows they’re frustrated and has heard the message. “We will unite,” McCarthy promised.
McCarthy made the pledge in an appearance before the Faith and Freedom Coalition a day after winning election as leader to replace Eric Cantor, who was unexpectedly ousted by a tea party candidate in the Virginia primary election last week.
McCarthy, 49, is an establishment-aligned figure whose elevation frustrated some more-conservative Republicans inside and outside the House. He used his appearance at the conference of evangelical Christians and social conservatives to reintroduce himself, describing his upbringing in small-town Bakersfield, California, and stressing his religious values and reliance on family.
He talked about starting a deli after winning the lottery in college, and about gazing at portraits of Lincoln and Reagan in his Capitol office to imagine how they would navigate the issues of the day.
McCarthy steered clear of any talk of policy and only briefly, at the end of his short remarks, appeared to allude to the rift between establishment lawmakers and Republican purists that has roiled the House GOP.
The divide complicated McCarthy’s life in his previous job as his party’s whip, or chief vote-counter, and figured in his elevation to majority leader. McCarthy easily dispatched the one tea party opponent who challenged him, Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, but that did little to quiet the frustrations of conservatives who have felt discounted or ignored by House leadership.
“I know we’re frustrated. I hear the message,” McCarthy said. “And I want to pledge this one item to you, the same thing I pledged inside conference: We will unite. We will have the courage to lead and the wisdom to listen, and we will turn this country back around.”
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