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There's a simple reason Kevin McCarthy will be the next speaker: money

McCarthy has given $3.2 million to fellow Republicans since 2013. That's more than anyone except for John Boehner and Paul Ryan.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to the media while flanked by Eric Cantor (R-VA) (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (R), after attending the weekly House Republican conference at the US Capitol.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to the media while flanked by Eric Cantor (R-VA) (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (R), after attending the weekly House Republican conference at the US Capitol.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy has now announced that he wants to be the next speaker of the House. The California Republican is the odds-on favorite. One good reason to expect McCarthy will win the post is that his leadership PAC (the boringly named Majority Committee PAC) has doled out $3.2 million in support to fellow Republicans over the past two election cycles (including this current one). That's close to John Boehner territory.

By giving out all this money, McCarthy has made many friends. A big and generous leadership PAC has historically been the clearest route to party leadership positions. Other members tend to reward fellow members who raise money and then share it widely.

While McCarthy's largesse is still less than Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican has said he has no interest in being speaker. He's happy running the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Graphic by Lee Drutman. (FEC)

The graphic here includes every House Republican who has distributed at least half a million dollars from his or her leadership PAC over the course of the 2014 and 2016 cycles.

The next Republican on the list behind McCarthy is Bill Flores of Texas, at $1.7 million. Flores is head of the Republican Study Commission. He has not announced interest in the job. And his recent comment that "if you look at what's happened the last few weeks, you have had people trying to burn the House down" may not exactly endear him to those in the party who were eager for Boehner's ouster.

Fred Upton of Michigan, at $1.2 million in leadership PAC distributions, is happily in charge of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Pete Sessions of Texas, at $1.1 million, is in charge of the Rules Committee. Peter Roskam, of Illinois, has expressed interest in the No. 2 or No. 3 slot in the party, and his $1.1 million would put him in a strong position to do it.

It's important to note that nobody on this list of major leadership PACs comes from the Freedom Caucus. These are members who are either not interested in running big leadership PACs, or they don't have access to the kinds of business donors who tend to fill up the coffers of leadership PACs.

McCarthy may indeed win the speakership. But the same tensions that ultimately exhausted Boehner will dog him. To continue to raise money for his leadership PAC, McCarthy will need to maintain close ties to the mainstream business donors. But these donors don't want a fight over the debt ceiling or a government shutdown. So how can he square these demands with the angry wing of his party, which seems to want to blow the process up time to prove a point over and over again?


Correction: This article originally misstated the home state of Rep. Bill Flores. He is from Texas.