Kevin McCarthy Using His New Power to Fight Gov. Jerry Brown

Image: Kevin McCarthy Using His New Power to Fight Gov. Jerry Brown Incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, and California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Thursday, 17 Jul 2014 11:10 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's growing power is making life more difficult back home for California's Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who is finding himself fighting against a Republican challenger with clout and strong opinions about how his home state should be run.

After McCarthy was elected to replace Virginia Republican Rep. Eric Cantor after his surprise primary election loss, he began leveraging his power to escalate his fight against many of Brown's signature agenda items, reports The New York Times.

Already, McCarthy has vowed to kill Brown's prized $68 billion high-speed train, a 520-mile project running from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

"If Sacramento looks to Washington to pay for the train, that will never happen," McCarthy said last week.

The new majority leader also said he will push Republican legislation to respond to the drought that is plaguing California.

His plan calls for rolling back federal protections for endangered salmon and smelt, which farmers say takes away water they need to irrigate crops.

Brown said McCarthy's call, however, is "an unwelcome and divisive intrusion into California's efforts to manage this severe crisis."

In addition, McCarthy opposes funding the Export-Import Bank, while Brown and 31 other governors signed a letter to congressional leaders saying that blocking funding puts American companies at a disadvantage that could lead to fewer exports and the loss of thousands of jobs.

McCarthy also has been speaking out about Brown's leadership and Democratic policies.

"There are some tough challenges in California, and the governor's answer is always to raise more taxes," McCarthy said last week. "That's going to harm the economy. Governors from other states come here to get jobs to leave California. I don't hear of our governor going to other states to attract their jobs here."

Democratic state Sen. Kevin de León, the president-elect of the State Senate, said McCarthy may have a lot of new power, but he's squaring off against a governor who remains popular in a state that is overwhelmingly Democratic.

But California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock said McCarthy has a "vivid understanding" of his state's public policy and will be a "welcome counterbalance" to Brown's policies.

McCarthy's strategy may not be successful, warns Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University.

"The question is, how far down the road does he want to go to become the anti-Democrat in California?" Sonenshein told The New York Times. "Gov. Brown in California is not the cartoon character that Republicans have made Obama in Washington."

And when it comes to the train, Brown is already taking steps to circumvent McCarthy. In June, he pushed a state budget agreement that uses $250 million in cap-and-trade fees to fund the project, a move that led McCarthy to denounce him on Facebook for trying to "prop up California's unworkable high-speed rail project."

Brown, said McCarthy, should "focus his time on water, infrastructure, highways."

McCarthy's growing power and interest in his home state could be critical, says California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman.

"His leadership in the House puts him in a position to help California or hurt California," Waxman said. "I hope he uses his position to help our state rather than hurt us."


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