From Instagram to Immigration, 5 Things to Know About House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy

By Torey Van Oot
|  Thursday, Jun 19, 2014  |  Updated 4:30 PM PDT
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5 Things to Know About New House GOP Leader McCarthy

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U.S. House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to members of the media after he was elected as the new leader at a House Republican Conference meeting June 19, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

House Republicans selected a new majority leader Thursday, tapping  Rep. Kevin McCarthy to the conference's No. 2 post.

The California native replaces outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was handed a surprising defeat by a little-known GOP challenger in Virgnia's primary election

The promotion puts the 49-year-old McCarthywho has quickly risen through the leadership ranks during his four terms in Congress, next in line to potentially succeed House Speaker John Boehner.

Here are five things you may not know about the new majority leader:

He got his (lucky) start in sandwiches.

A young McCarthy used a $5,000 lottery prize to start his own business, opening a sandwich shop called Kevin O's Deli at age 19. The shop he has descibed as "Subway before there was Subway," offered "fresh Dutch Krunch white rolls every day," and sandwiches "hot upon request," according to The Orange County Register. McCarthy says he used the profits from later selling that deli to finance his college education. The experience of building a business before hitting 21, he says, helped shape his views on limited government regulations and taxes.

He sees (some of) himself in “House of Cards.”

When Netflix’s popular political drama debuted in 2013, a few things felt a little too familiar to McCarthy, who, like the show’s fictional lead, Rep. Francis Underwood, served as majority whip. That framed whip hanging in Underwood’s office? A spitting image of the one McCarthy received as a gift from Cantor. The scene where Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, tells members “Vote your district, vote your conscience, don't surprise me"? Sounds strikingly like what McCarthy says he tells his own conference. The real-life whip believes those nods came out of a meet-and-greet he had with Spacey before the show started filming. He says the similarities between him and Underwood, a Democrat known for his duplicitous and Machiavellian ways, stop at those superficial references, though. "This one is made professionally about Washington, but it's not Washington," he said of the show during an appearance in Sacramento. "Don't believe what you see in there, but it's intriguing."

He co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the California state Capitol, that is. McCarthy, first elected to represent his home district in Kern County in the state Legislature in 2002, rose to leader of the Assembly’s Republican caucus during his first term. That put him at the bargaining table with then-Gov. Schwarzenegger, who entered office via a 2003 recall election, on state budget negotiations and other major issues facing the Golden State. McCarthy left California's Capitol for the halls of Congress after the 2006 election, when he won the House seat vacated by his own political mentor and former boss, former Republican Rep. Bill Thomas.

He’s an all-star Instagrammer.

McCarthy’s filter-laden Instagram account has attracted more than 12,000 followers to date. While cameos from the likes of Beyonce, Ringo Star and cute dogs don’t hurt, the GOP congressman also uses the social platform to post behind-the-scenes photos from his political and personal life (including frequent “Throwback Thursday” pictures). His social media savvy led BuzzFeed to name him the “best Republican congressman on Instagram” in 2013.

 


He splits with some GOP conservatives on immigration.

McCarthy hails from one of the nation's bluest states. But the California native hasn’t strayed much from the GOP line in his own time in office, voting with his party 96 percent of the time, according to one Washington Post analysis.  Still, he's split with the more conservative factions of his caucus on at least one key issue seen as a potential factor in Cantor’s primary defeat: immigration reform. Unlike his tea party-aligned colleagues, McCarthy has expressed support for creating a path to legal status for the country’s undocumented immigrants. His campaign for majority leader drew criticism from some conservative commentators, who blasted his backing of immigration reform, Sandy relief funding and a budget compromise. Despite some differences in ideology and style, McCarthy, a skilled networker and social butterfly, has made many friends in Washington, thanks in part to his success in raising cash and building a program to train and support up-and-coming candidates.
 

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