Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) could fail in his bid for House Speaker when Congress votes on Tuesday, as the GOP congressman faces strong opposition from some of the party’s more right-wing members that could derail the vote—even after he granted a key concession during a last-minute conference call on Sunday.
McCarthy is running for Speaker of the House after a majority of House Republicans previously voted for him as the party’s Speaker candidate, and assuming that no Democrat votes for him on Tuesday, he can only afford to lose four GOP votes in order to be elected.
McCarthy agreed on a conference call Sunday to make it easier for lawmakers to potentially oust him in the future, Politico and CNN report, granting a demand from his opponents that just five lawmakers from the majority party can force a no-confidence vote for the Speaker.
The House GOP released a rules package on Sunday—which isn’t finalized yet—that also contains other rules that further-right lawmakers have pushed for, CNN reports, like creating a new committee to investigate the Biden Administration’s purported “weaponization” of the Justice Department and FBI.
The proposed rules would also allow the House Ethics Committee to take ethics complaints from the public, kill congressional staffers’ unionization efforts and outlaw remote hearings, among other measures, according to CNN.
Those concessions still might not be enough: Nine GOP lawmakers released a letter after the conference call Sunday saying that while McCarthy’s entreaties toward them are “welcome” and the “progress made thus far has been helpful,” it still isn’t enough to address their concerns.
Some lawmakers plan to vote against McCarthy even if he gives into all of lawmakers’ demands, Politico reported Monday, such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who’s one of five “Never Kevin” lawmakers who have already come out against McCarthy.
218. That’s how many votes McCarthy needs to clinch the speakership, and Republicans hold a 222-seat majority in the House. It is possible that threshold could be lowered if some lawmakers are absent for the vote, which would make it easier for McCarthy to be elected.
What We Don’t Know
Who would become Speaker if not McCarthy. No clear candidate has emerged yet who would be a viable alternative to the California Republican, though Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Calif.) has announced his candidacy against McCarthy. Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) told Fox News Monday that there would be “a true candidate who can represent the conservative center of the conference” if McCarthy isn’t elected on the first try, though he didn’t actually name who that could be. If McCarthy fails in multiple rounds of votes for House Speaker, Roll Call reports that some more moderate Republicans have discussed the possibility of working with Democrats to elect Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) as Speaker instead. Upton retired from Congress at the end of 2022, but House Speakers aren’t actually legally required to be sitting members of Congress.
If McCarthy isn’t elected as House Speaker on the first ballot on Tuesday, it would be the first time since 1923 that it’s taken multiple rounds of votes to elect a Speaker, and only the second time since the Civil War.
McCarthy was first elected to Congress in 2006 and is now making his second bid for House Speaker, after he previously ran for the position in 2015 before unexpectedly dropping out of the race, which resulted in former Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) being elected to the role instead. Republicans regained control of the House in the midterm elections after Democrats had controlled the chamber since 2018. The GOP didn’t clinch as strong a majority as expected, however, after the midterms failed to result in an anticipated “red wave.” The controversy over McCarthy’s vote reflects a broader sense that Republicans’ razor-thin majority will give the party’s further-right members more influence in Congress, as it would only take a small number of far-right lawmakers—like Gaetz or Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)—to derail votes and block Republicans from passing legislation.
POLITICO Playbook: McCarthy on the brink (Politico)