Now that Kevin McCarthy is the House GOP’s Speakership nominee, his real work begins.
McCarthy’s win over his internal critics on Tuesday was the start of a seven-week marathon. His majority is much smaller than expected. He will have to convince almost all 36 opposition members on Tuesday’s secret vote to support him in the public floor vote of Jan. 3.
The conference was dominated by anti-McCarthy votes going to Rep. Andy Biggs (R.Ariz.), but five House Republicans used a different name as speaker and one abstained, totaling 37 votes in opposition. This map shows the Californian’s difficult path to 218 votes.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R. Pa.) made a comment on the effects of the chamber’s narrow margins and offered a quip a Democrat might enjoy: “Everybody is a Joe Manchin.” Fitzpatrick did not nominate McCarthy Tuesday but stressed that McCarthy, the current minority leader, “has earned” the right to be the speaker.
The House GOP will move on Wednesday to the proposed conference rules. Debate will continue after Thanksgiving. McCarthy has less space to maneuver now than he may have expected. He is moving towards making institutional concessions to Trump’s Freedom Caucus. This Trump-aligned group helped him block his ascent in 2015. Emboldened moderates are becoming uncomfortable with what they see as back-door deals to party hardliners.
A Republican who was present at the meeting told POLITICO that more than 50 members of Republican Main Street Partnership met Wednesday morning to discuss their legislative priorities. They also discussed how they would use their power as the second largest GOP group on Capitol Hill.
Some GOP lawmakers who supported McCarthy Tuesday could end up supporting Freedom Caucus members in the negotiations for the rules concessions they want. There are several requests to weaken McCarthy, such as the restoration of the speaker-deposing motion known as a “motion for the chair to vacate”; and diluting McCarthy’s influence in the allocation of committee assignments. The fewer carrots McCarthy has to offer his skeptics, the less influence McCarthy has there.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R. Ohio), once an McCarthy opponent, became a key ally and he backed conservatives’ proposed changes to the rules, calling them “good-sense, common-sense.”
A few Republicans will also be arriving at Wednesday’s debate having had a Tuesday night of hangovers. Four legislators spoke on condition of anonymity to express frustration over the chaotic and poorly explained process for tallying votes after the leadership elections.
These private complaints about Elise Stefanik (N.Y. GOP Conference Chair) handling of the voting were made worse by the fact she gave out votes for McCarthy & Biggs, but didn’t mention that six members had chosen neither candidate. Conference staff claim that the internal rules of the conference state that only officially nominated leadership candidates (in this case McCarthy and Biggs) have their totals publicly announced.
According to a senior Republican present in the room, at least one GOP lawmaker allegedly mixed up votes for the first or second ballots of the highly competitive whip race. According to a senior Republican, the lawmaker was originally going to pick Rep. Drew Ferguson (R.Ga.), but instead he chose Rep. Tom Emmer.
If that one vote had been cast correctly, it could have led to a different outcome for the whip battle. Since Ferguson finished the first ballot one vote ahead of Emmer, he was eliminated from the contest against the current chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Jim Banks (R.Ind.). ).
Republicans now hope to move past the drama, though it’s more probable they just start the second Act — as McCarthy attempts to secure votes.
He cannot lose more than a few members. Although the House has not yet been officially called, Republicans are expected have a single-digit majority. McCarthy already lost two members: Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), shortly before Wednesday’s conference meeting. seemed to be in the “no” column.
“[McCarthy] wants the status quo to continue, which consolidates power in his hands and a select group of people he personally selects. Rosendale stated that we need a leader capable of standing up to a Democrat-controlled Senate or President Biden. Unfortunately, this is not Kevin McCarthy.”
He joined Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Florida Republican who is pushing Jordan to be a speaker candidate and cast doubt on McCarthy’s chances of winning the prize. “Kevin McCarthy didn’t get 218 votes. He couldn’t get 200 votes. He couldn’t get 190 votes.”
Other McCarthy supporters also spoke out, asking for challengers.
Biggs indicated that he will not challenge McCarthy again, asking “how many times can it be on your back?” But he said that House Republicans “still had a lot to discuss internally,” including the speakership.
Rep. Bob Good (R.Va.), who voted against McCarthy, stated that the failure of the current leader to win 218 internal votes “opens the opportunity for anybody interested to let us all know their vision to fight for what is most important to the American people.”
McCarthy must be ready to squash several conservative amendements on Wednesday afternoon or to defeat them later if the voting is delayed. These proposed amendments would allow members to elect their committee chairs and open up conference meetings. They also require that all bills brought to the floor must be supported by a majority.
The majority of Wednesday’s discussion will be devoted to noncontroversial, largely noncontroversial amendments. The plan to vote on Wednesday night’s proposed changes was postponed until after Congress’ one week Thanksgiving break. This gives McCarthy more time for negotiation and working with different factions of his conference.
Biggs stated, “I’m looking for this body to open up,” when he was asked what it would take to support McCarthy in January. “But, I also want trust.”
Nancy Vu contributed this report.