Tensions mount in Republican House speaker race as McCarthy and critics brace for court battle


House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and his critics are gearing up for a potential House fight in January over the Speaker’s seat, raising the prospect of a chaotic party showdown that could end as Republicans prepare to enter a new election. The occasion of the majority seat brings uncertainty and confusion.

McCarthy remains adamant that he will get the 218 votes needed to secure the Speaker’s seat. Conservative hardliners who tried to conspire to remove McCarthy disagreed.

What if he doesn’t get 218 votes? no one knows.

“You can’t beat someone when no one else is running, and no one else is running,” the Rep. said. South Dakota Republican Dusty Johnson, who backed McCarthy for speaker. “Even if there was another declared candidate, that person would not be better off than Kevin getting 218.”

Opponents of McCarthy say another candidate will emerge and talks have begun to recruit a replacement.

“There are quiet talks going on with the other candidates,” said the Rep. Bob Good, a Virginia Republican who is one of a handful of conservative hardliners who have publicly said they are “strongly opposed” to McCarthy. one. “But as you might imagine, those candidates will be very hesitant or unwilling to be public in any way.”

If McCarthy loses more than 4 Republican votes on Jan. 3, he is expected to fall short of the 218 needed to win the Speaker’s seat. The House will then keep voting until someone wins a majority of the members present who are choosing a specific candidate instead of voting “present.” If that happens, McCarthy insists he still won’t drop out.

“Oh yeah, I’m going to take the speaker fight to the floor,” McCarthy told CNN.

McCarthy also said he was open to as many votes as possible in the field, predicting: “I’m going to get there.”

Meanwhile, the California GOP’s most vehement critics are digging deeper.

Members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus met with House lawmakers on Wednesday for a briefing on the rules of procedure and procedures for the Speaker’s vote process. Some of McCarthy’s opponents reiterated their commitment to opposing him on the floor and called on the Republican leader to drop out of the race now so they can start looking for a serious alternative.

“He’s avoidable now,” the Arizona congressman said. Andy Biggs, former co-chair of the Freedom Caucus, lost out to McCarthy in the conference speaker nomination. “He has no votes. We can move to a different candidate. I’m willing to entertain anyone.”

The two camps have pledged to delay the speaker’s race until January, and it is turning into a game of political cockfights, with both sides saying they are willing to allow the other to bluff. But most Republicans hope things don’t get to that point, fearing it will set the wrong tone as they take office and prepare for a difficult two years in office while trying to protect their slim majority.

“I don’t want to see that happen. I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen now,” said the Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Trump ally who supported McCarthy, spoke of the speaker’s on-court showdown. “But our goal is to stop that from happening, get everyone on the same page and build unity so we’re ready from day one.”

Added Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, another McCarthy supporter: “I hope we get this done in unity on the first ballot, but we’ll see.  … I Hope and prayer for unity.

Some Republicans think hardliners are bluffing.

“Maybe they’re just trying to sell themselves a little bit?” said Rep. Greg Pence of Indiana, adding that conservative members expressed more empathy behind closed doors than they did publicly.

When asked if he could vote for McCarthy’s No. 1. 2. Steve Scalise, as spokesman, Pence said: “I vote for Kevin McCarthy. He will win.”

The last time multiple votes were required to elect the speaker was in 1923, and the longest speaker election in history lasted two months, with 133 votes cast.

Part of McCarthy’s pitch to his critics in recent weeks is that if they don’t unite, then Democrats could theoretically unite and strip some Republicans to pick the next speaker.

“Having a challenge on the floor is never going to be positive and really turn the tables on the Democrats,” McCarthy told reporters this week.

Biggs, however, dismissed that possibility. Most Republicans don’t see this as a serious threat, though they privately acknowledge that the speaker’s race could go to multiple votes.

“I’m not buying it,” Biggs said. “Say which Democrat a Republican will vote for.”

Some moderates and mainstream Republicans have grown frustrated with their colleagues’ threats to sow chaos in the arena. Some of them have caveats of their own: If the vote goes to a second round or more, they plan to keep voting for McCarthy — potentially thwarting plans by anti-McCarthy groups to force him out of the race in hopes of getting lawmakers to rally around an alternative. .

“Many of us were upset. We voted and McCarthy got 85 percent,” the Nebraska representative said. Don Bacon, who represents the district in which Joe Biden will govern in 2020, referred to the internal Republican election when Republicans backed McCarthy as their nominee. “The right thing to do is rally around people who have broad support. Otherwise it cripples the meeting and hurts the team.”

So far, at least five House Republicans have vowed to oppose McCarthy as Speaker — a problem for him because he may only be able to afford to lose four Republicans — though some of them expressed willingness to negotiate.

McCarthy’s enemies say he has a bigger problem.

“Well, I think the number is a lot more than people realize,” Goode said of McCarthy’s “no” vote. “I hope more of them start coming out. So it’s becoming more and more obvious that he doesn’t have the votes and we need to consider other candidates.”

To win over opponents, McCarthy has brokered negotiations on potential rule changes aimed at empowering rank-and-file members, such as enabling members to submit more amendments and giving them more notice before the fast-track bill passes.

McCarthy has also spoken out about what he would do as speaker, from the pending impeachment inquiry of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorcas to threatening to investigate the House Select Committee investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 — — both of which are top priorities for the right.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” the Pennsylvania congressman said. Scott Perry, the current chair of the Freedom Caucus. But he added: “I think people are becoming more and more aware that this place is broken. It’s a start.”

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