Five things to watch for as McCarthy scrambles to secure House speaker bid

Kevin McCarthy
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif., speaks to the media at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 2, 2019. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Five things to watch for as McCarthy scrambles to secure House speaker bid

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The House is poised to hold its leadership elections shortly after the new Congress is sworn in on Tuesday, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is scrambling to find enough votes to secure his bid for House speaker with just hours before lawmakers are set to vote.

To secure the gavel, McCarthy needs a majority of voting members — in this case, 218 lawmakers — to vote for him when his nomination goes before the entire House floor. As of noon on Tuesday, the GOP will hold a 222-213 advantage in the House, giving McCarthy little room for error.


McCarthy has pledged a number of concessions and compromises with members of his own party in order to win their support, but it remains unclear whether it will be enough to push him across the finish line.

Here are five things to watch out for as the House speaker election convenes on Tuesday:

McCarthy vows to go through as many voting rounds as needed 

Despite weeks of attempting to wrangle enough support to secure his speakership bid, McCarthy will enter the Capitol building on Tuesday still short of the threshold. However, the California Republican has remained adamant he will go through as many rounds of voting as are needed to win the speaker’s gavel.

If no candidate wins a majority of the votes cast during the roll call on Tuesday, the House will repeat the process until a speaker is elected, according to House rules. Congress has not had to repeat a roll call vote to elect a House speaker since 1923, when it took nine ballots for Frederick Gillett to obtain the speakership.

It’s unclear how long the process may last if McCarthy can’t secure the majority in the first round of ballots, but the Republican leader has indicated his strategy is to continue voting for as long as it takes to break down his opponents. That process could last hours, if not days.

McCarthy offers number of concessions in House rules in order to secure support

In an attempt to win over a number of far-right lawmakers, McCarthy has agreed to several compromises and key concessions in an effort to secure their votes. It’s still unclear, however, how effective that strategy will be.

In one concession, McCarthy pledged to reduce the required number of votes to call a floor vote to oust a sitting House speaker, giving critics a way to oust him from the leadership position if they disapprove of his performance.

The rules change has long been a bargaining chip of many of McCarthy’s defectors, although it may not be enough to win over all his opponents before Tuesday’s vote.

‘Never Kevin’ Republicans remain adamant to oppose speakership 

At least five GOP lawmakers have publicly vowed to oppose McCarthy’s speakership vote on Tuesday, with the Republican leader only able to lose four or else he risks sinking his chances.

That list includes Andy Biggs (AZ), Matt Gaetz (FL), Bob Good (VA), Ralph Norman (SC), and Matt Rosendale (MT) — but there could be a group of up to 18 lawmakers who are planning to vote against him, according to a source familiar with the situation.

McCarthy held an eleventh-hour meeting with three of his toughest defectors on Tuesday evening in an effort to win their support. Gaetz emerged from the meeting calling it “brief and productive” but maintained his vote would be “no.”

His critics have called for additional rule changes, including placing conservative hardliners on “A” committees, a ban on leadership playing in primaries, and “allowing ‘open rules’ on all major rule legislation” to provide rank-and-file members with more opportunities to amend bills.

McCarthy backers confident he’ll secure speaker’s gavel 

Despite the growing opposition, McCarthy supporters have remained confident the Republican leader will eventually secure the speaker position.

“If they think this is going to be a game of chicken, to see who’s going to blink first, they’re going to be sadly surprised,” Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), the incoming chief deputy whip, told Politico. “We’ll be here until the Fourth of July voting for McCarthy.”

McCarthy was also able to wrangle the support of some battleground Republicans who recently won their midterm races in states where President Joe Biden won in 2020, pledging their support for McCarthy.

“Let us be clear: we are not only supporting Kevin McCarthy for Speaker, but are not open to any so-called shadow ‘consensus candidate’ — regardless of how many votes it takes to elect Speaker-designate McCarthy,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter released on Thursday. “There is no other conservative candidate that can garner the support of 218 Republicans for Speaker — period.”

Lawmakers buckle up for vote that could last days, with neither side conceding 

As House Republicans don’t have a clear alternative to McCarthy, and the House Republican has yet to secure the majority vote, it could take hours, if not days, to settle the matter. McCarthy has vowed to repeat the roll call vote as many times as it’s needed in order to secure the necessary threshold.

To win the speakership, McCarthy only needs to win the majority of the votes cast by lawmakers on the floor, according to House rules. That means if some lawmakers don’t show up for the vote, that majority number will be adjusted according to how many members of Congress are present on the floor.


As a result, Democratic leaders have vowed all their party members will be present on the floor to vote against McCarthy in each round of voting — ensuring that they don’t do the Republican leader any favors.

It is possible Republicans will choose to adjourn the meeting until a future date if no House speaker is elected after hours of voting. However, that could spell trouble for Republicans as it would delay the party from establishing new committees or passing legislation.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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