Sparks flew in the halls of Congress on Tuesday as GOP infighting over leadership in both chambers took center stage.
Republicans in the House forged ahead with elections to choose who will helm the party next year, a vote that foreshadowed the rocky road ahead for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in his bid to clinch the speaker’s gavel in January. In the upper chamber, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) learned he will face a challenge for his post.
Meanwhile, members braced for former President Donald Trump’s “very big announcement” at Mar-a-Lago following a disappointing midterm election for Republicans last week.
Here is a look at the biggest political developments of the day in Congress.
McCarthy clears speakership bid hurdle
Fending off a late challenge from former House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-AZ), McCarthy received 188 votes for speaker, while more than 30 supported Biggs.
McCarthy will need 218 votes in the new Congress to claim the gavel, and a razor-thin majority in the House means he can barely afford any defections.
McCarthy’s previous gambit for the speakership in 2015 crumbled amid a Freedom Caucus revolt. Some Democrats have floated the prospect of helping him over the finish line in exchange for concessions, but McCarthy was adamant he would not “solicit or accept” votes for the speakership from Democrats during a GOP caucus forum Monday.
Emmer wins race for No. 3 GOP post
In one of the most contentious GOP leadership races, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) managed to emerge victorious over Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN) and Drew Ferguson (R-GA) in a three-way contest for majority whip. Emmer had headed the National Republican Congressional Committee and weathered criticism for the GOP’s lackluster midterm performance.
Ferguson, the chief deputy whip, lost out in the first round, while Banks, the Republican Study Committee chairman, and Emmer advanced to the second round. Ultimately, Emmer garnered 115 votes to Banks’s 106.
All three vied to replace Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who won support for the majority leader position Wednesday.
Rick Scott challenges McConnell
Following weeks of speculation and behind-the-scenes maneuvering, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) made it official, announcing he would vie to unseat McConnell from his long-held perch atop the GOP Senate caucus. He is widely viewed as an underdog.
A number of Senate Republicans have publicly demanded that the leadership vote be delayed, but it will nonetheless proceed at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Scott and McConnell were at odds over strategy throughout the midterm election cycle. Trump, who has fumed publicly against McConnell, has publicly backed Scott running to replace him.
Scott underscored his desire for the Senate GOP to “be far more bold and resolute than we have been in the past.” Meanwhile, McConnell was confident he had the votes to keep his job as the No. 1 Senate Republican.
Graham calls on Trump to delay 2024 announcement
Graham cited the Georgia Senate runoff between Republican Herschel Walker and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) as a reason why Trump should postpone the announcement.
Hakeem Jeffries knocks McCarthy over call to Cuellar
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) chided his Republican counterparts for reportedly attempting to court anti-abortion Democrat Henry Cuellar (TX) to their side to back McCarthy in his quest to be speaker.
“The nerve of these individuals — and how desperate that they literally just spent millions of dollars mischaracterizing Henry Cuellar’s leadership and talked about the emergence of a red wave in the Rio Grande Valley, then get wiped down by Cuellar and Vincente Gonzalez and want to run to them, saying, ‘We need your help because we’re struggling, because the American people rejected our extremism, because they saw us for who we are,'” Jeffries said.
Joe Manchin gets a 2024 challenger
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) drew a 2024 challenge from Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), who unveiled plans to run for the centrist Democrat’s Senate seat.
While many progressives have been agitated with Manchin for tanking some of their agenda, Mooney blamed the West Virginia senator for delivering Biden some of his biggest policy victories. Manchin is a rare Democrat who serves a state Trump won by almost 39 percentage points in 2020.