Kevin McCarthy reflects on history during tour of first speaker’s house

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EXCLUSIVE: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., recently toured the home of Frederick Muhlenberg, the first Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and reflected on the historical importance of his position.

During the tour in Trappe, Pennsylvania, located about 30 miles north of Philadelphia, leaders of a local historical society took McCarthy around Muhlenberg’s property — dubbed ‘The Speaker’s House’ — and the Henry Muhlenberg House which was owned by Frederick Muhlenberg’s father, a well-known 18th century Lutheran minister.

‘I wanted to come to the house of the very first speaker of the House of Representatives, Frederick Muhlenberg. You learn from history,’ McCarthy told Fox News Digital in an exlusive interview following the tour. ‘Think about if you became the very first speaker of Congress — setting up a new nation, how did you create the tradition, the history?’

‘And when you study his time of being speaker, there’s something that stands out: I might have a little in common with him. He didn’t win on the first ballot. It took him a couple ballots to win there,’ he continued. ‘So, he had some fortitude, some grit, which you needed back in the time. How did he make sure the Constitution was upheld? How did he make sure committees did the work, that the speaker didn’t suck in all the power?’

McCarthy added that he was especially interested in learning about how Muhlenberg was able to work with the first U.S. President George Washington in the late 1700s as they established the foundations of the federal government for years to come. 

‘Being a speaker of the House is not an easy job — you know that going in,’ he said. ‘But how do you wrangle and help people come together, uphold the Constitution, but pass the type of legislation through committees that puts America onto a better track, that tomorrow will be better than today?’

In January, after multiple unsuccessful votes over the course of four days, McCarthy was elected the 55th ever Speaker of the House on the 15th ballot. The tight vote came after a group of Republicans demanded a series of concessions — such as ensuring certain committee assignments, creating a new ‘weaponization’ subcommittee, and giving lower-ranked members power to alter bills — and for McCarthy to prioritize various conservative priorities.

And McCarthy’s speakership hit another snag last month when House Freedom Caucus Republicans delayed votes on protecting gas stoves, a major GOP priority, in response to the way McCarthy and other leaders pushed the debt ceiling bill. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said he and others were fighting back against the ‘era of the imperial speakership.’

McCarthy broadly reflected on the first six months of his speakership following the tour in Trappe, saying he understood the job isn’t easy, but that he is willing to make the right decisions even if they aren’t immediately popular.

‘Muhlenberg, a lot of people may not know him, but he literally made a decision following George Washington on a Jay Treaty that cost him his political career — literally was attacked by a family member over it,’ McCarthy told Fox News Digital. ‘It was the right decision going forward. But emotionally, where the country was at, they wanted another decision.’ 

‘He took the leadership upon himself to make that tie-breaking vote where George Washington believed our nation was too young to go to war with Britain again,’ he continued. ‘You can learn so many times in history that people putting the country first, made the right decision. It might not make you popular at the moment, but history will be very kind when they look back upon you.’

The current Speaker said reflecting on history reminds him democracy isn’t going to be ‘smooth,’ but will ultimately yield the best results.

‘Democracy, as Abraham Lincoln put it, of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from Earth. There’s a reason why: because our power doesn’t rest with government, it’s with the people,’ McCarthy added. ‘I actually embrace the struggle when it comes because I know it’s working. You might not get everything that you want, but you know the struggle, that the people still have the power and you work through it.’

According to Lisa Minardi, the executive director of Historic Trappe which manages an array of historical sites in the area, The Speaker’s House was scheduled 20 years ago to be demolished and replaced by a CVS Pharmacy as part of strip mall expansion plan, but was rescued after a group of citizens who wanted to preserve the site banded together.

Today, the home is being renovated as part of a multi-year renovation funded, in large part, by individual donors. The largest project has been executing the restoration of the home’s roof which was successfully completed in 2017. The organization is now focused on replacing windows and refurbishing the entire exterior, and plans to soon shift its focus on the interior.

‘There’s only one first speaker of the House,’ Minardi told Fox News Digital in an interview. ‘Frederick Muhlenberg is just incredibly important historically. He’s important at the local level, the county level, the state and the national level.’

‘Not just here in our community of Trappe, but throughout all of those levels,’ she continued. ‘So, we think we’ve got a great story to tell. We want to, you know, get him on the radar.’

Fox News Digital Production Assistant Aubrie Spady contributed to this report.

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