Rep. Tom Cole told The Atlantic that hardliners might “very easily” cost the GOP its House majority.
“I think these guys materially hurt our chances to hold the majority,” he told the magazine.
Cole strongly vouched for McCarthy shortly before he was ousted as speaker in a 216-210 vote.
Shortly before Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California was ousted as Speaker of the House last Tuesday, one of his most prominent allies stepped forward to vouch for his character.
Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a veteran GOP lawmaker who chairs the House Rules Committee, touted McCarthy’s leadership in the lower chamber as he rejected calls by conservative hardliners to oust their speaker, who had only been in the role since January.
“The overwhelming majority of my party supports the speaker that we elected. We’re proud of the leadership he’s shown,” Cole said at the time.
“There is a second group, small group,” he continued. “Honestly, they are willing to plunge this body into chaos and this country into uncertainty for reasons that only they really understand.”
Later that day, the House voted 216-210 to remove McCarthy from the speakership, with eight Republicans joining 208 Democrats in backing a motion to vacate the chair.
It was an act that continues to frustrate Cole, who recently told The Atlantic that conservative hardliners “just took out our best player” as the party looks to defend its slim 221-212 House majority headed into a presidential election year.
And Cole told the magazine that McCarthy’s ouster could “very easily” threaten the very House majority that the GOP fought so hard to win last year after losing it following the 2018 midterms.
“We put sharp knives in the hands of children, and they used them,” Cole said of the hardliners in their successful push to remove McCarthy.
“I think these guys materially hurt our chances to hold the majority,” he continued. “That’s just the reality.”
Cole, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told The Atlantic that the former speaker convinced many strong candidates to jump into competitive races in 2020 and 2022.
“This is going to cost us candidates,” Cole told the magazine, again criticizing the votes of the eight breakaway GOP lawmakers.
“They just messed up the House,” he continued. “They had no exit plan, no alternative strategy, no alternative candidate.”
While some have suggested Cole as a consensus candidate who could unite the House GOP conference, the congressman told the magazine that the chance of him becoming speaker was “very low, and if I have anything to say about it, zero.”
Currently, the leading candidates to succeed McCarthy as speaker are Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.