Hours after his election to the post of next House minority leader, an enthusiastic Kevin McCarthy said part of his goal is to unite not just the government but the country and he'll work "with anyone who's willing to work in moving the country forward."
McCarthy was chosen Wednesday in a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, putting the Bakersfield native in position to lead House GOP members after Speaker Paul Ryan step down at the end of his term in January. The vote was 159-43.
McCarthy said he's faced similar challenges in the past, and he looks forward to this one. He said when he was first elected to Congress in 2006 the GOP minority was steeper than it is now, and he led the party to the House majority four years later.
"I wish I was standing in the majority, but I believe and I know that if we are able to execute our mission things will be different," McCarthy told The Californian Wednesday afternoon.
"We have to rise to the challenge every day, across the state," he said. "We will make no exceptions, make no excuses."
What does his election mean for his constituents in Bakersfield? They have a seat at the table, for every issue, McCarthy said.
Although he's in the minority of the House, McCarthy said his new position elevates his standing in connection with negotiations with foreign leaders, and with the president and Democrats regarding major pieces of legislation.
His knowledge of policy and politics make him well-suited for the job, he said, and he'll continue to move the country in the right direction economically while opposing Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and others who he said "want to obstruct and divide America."
McCarthy said the country is too big for what he described as the Democrats' "small vision" — such as talk of impeachment — of what they want moving forward.
"I can bring people together working as a team," McCarthy said.
He said he wants to win back the House, and "I want to win it for every American who still believes this is the greatest country in history."