McCarthy backers wear support on their sleeves, sport ‘Only Kevin’ pins

Kevin McCarthy, Elise Stefanik
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., joined by Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., left, talks to reporters about the appropriations process by the majority Democrats to fund the government, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite/AP

McCarthy backers wear support on their sleeves, sport ‘Only Kevin’ pins

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) backers on Capitol Hill have found a new way to signal support for the minority leader as he vies for the speaker’s gavel: lapel pins with the letters “O.K.”

The conservative House Freedom Caucus has lined up against McCarthy’s bid, with the most militant members dubbed the “Never Kevin” faction. Now, a group of centrist Republicans is continuing the riff on “Never Trump” by turning the label on its head, vowing to support “Only Kevin” on Jan. 3, when the House will elect a new speaker.

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McCarthy won the speaker nomination from his conference last month, despite 31 votes against him from hard-line Republicans. However, it’s a vote by the full House on Jan. 3 that will decide whether he’s elected.

McCarthy will need a majority of votes — 218 if all lawmakers cast their ballot — but with Republicans commanding only a four-vote majority next year, McCarthy and his surrogates have the daunting task of chipping away at nearly all the GOP opposition in time for the vote. If he can’t, there could be a floor fight and multiple rounds of voting.

Members of the Republican Governance Group were seen sporting the “O.K.” pins around the Capitol this week in support of the minority leader. The centrist caucus, formerly known as the Tuesday Group, has urged Freedom Caucus members to drop their opposition, penning a letter earlier this month likening the intraparty fighting to the conference “handcuffing itself to a burning building before” the next Congress even begins.

Freedom Caucus members are demanding a number of concessions from McCarthy in exchange for their vote, most controversially a change to the “motion to vacate the chair,” a procedure that can be used to oust a sitting speaker. The lawmakers want to enable any single member to offer the motion.

But centrist Republicans are arguing these changes will hobble Republicans’ ability to govern next year and that without another consensus candidate Republicans can rally around, the opposition is an exercise in futility bound to fail.

“Governing is fundamentally a team sport. It comes down to a simple choice: do you want to make a point or a difference?” the Republican Governance Group letter said.

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Five House Republicans have either said or strongly suggested they will not vote for McCarthy on Jan. 3. Axios reported this week that the members plan to vote as a bloc, lowering hopes that McCarthy can peel off one or two of them.

McCarthy told talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on Friday that he has not made headway on changing the minds of those recalcitrant Republicans. “They have not moved,” he said.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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