Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California is supposed to know what all his members are up to, but he got a birthday surprise on Monday night.
No, it wasn’t a successful whip count or even a member refusing to vote for a leadership-endorsed bill. It was a painting.
Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam, R-Ill., surprised the California Republican, who turned 48 on Jan. 26, with a oil-on-canvas portrait of McCarthy and his wife Judy, hand-painted by Roskam’s wife, Elizabeth.
“He doesn’t know a thing about it and he’s a tough guy to catch flat footed because he usually knows everything that’s going on in the conference,” Roskam said. “Kevin McCarthy is always the guy who’s watching out for other members, so this is an opportunity for him to get recognized.”
Roskam’s wife has been painting a lot lately, he said, even doing a series of Capitol Domes, one of which they used as a Christmas card over the holidays. They got good feedback, and then came up with the idea of painting McCarthy.
But although Roskam is delivering the gift, he downplayed his involvement, giving all the credit to his wife, who he said is good friends with the whip and his wife.
“I did absolutely nothing expect say, ‘That’s a great idea! I’ll carry it to Washington when it’s all ready,’” he said.
McCarthy was surprised and thrilled, said his spokeswoman, Erica Elliott.
“Mr. Roskam also gave him a cake and Kevin said, ‘This is great because Judy didn’t get me a cake,’” Elliott said, referencing McCarthy’s wife.
Then Roskam led the whip team in the “Boehner Birthday Song.” Lyrics: “This is your birthday song. It doesn’t last too long. Hey!”
This is not the first time a member of the leadership team was surprised with a painting. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio was given a painting of his desk by Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania at a surprise meeting last month.