McCarthy faces daunting math ahead of vote for House speaker

McCarthy and Gaetz
(AP Photo)

McCarthy faces daunting math ahead of vote for House speaker

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House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has just hours left to win over as many as 18 GOP lawmakers as his bid to become the next House speaker is in danger.

A handful of conservative members have led a push to withhold support for McCarthy until the prospective speaker promises a slate of reforms aimed at empowering rank-and-file congressmen.

With a razor-thin majority — Republicans hold 222 seats at the start of the 118th Congress on Tuesday, just four more than the 218 votes McCarthy needs to become speaker — the GOP leader has little room for error in one of the closest speaker races in recent memory.


After a GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning, some conservatives said they were leaning toward a “no” vote on McCarthy.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) told reporters outside of the meeting that “as it stands,” she would not back McCarthy.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry said ahead of the speaker vote that McCarthy’s refusal to entertain their demands continued throughout their negotiations over the holidays.

“Kevin McCarthy had an opportunity to be Speaker of the House,” Perry said in a statement. “He rejected it.”

Perry said that McCarthy had, among other slights, declined requests to put specific conservative lawmakers on key committees, refused to change the amendment process, and did not commit to supporting policy changes that conservatives want to pursue, such as balancing the federal budget.

At least five Republican members have said at various points that they plan to vote against McCarthy — Reps. Matt Gaetz, Matt Rosendale, Bob Good, Andy Biggs, and Ralph Norman.

Others may still withhold their support from McCarthy depending on how many concessions the House leader makes.

Thirty-one Republicans defected in November when the GOP conference held a vote to nominate their choice for speaker two months ahead of the full House vote.

Biggs had launched a symbolic challenge to McCarthy in that contest, which he said at the time was intended primarily to highlight McCarthy’s weakness among House Republicans.

Still, McCarthy has many defenders, including some high-profile conservatives such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

“If five or six people hold out, all we’re really doing is empowering the other side and not having a speaker, because there’s no question,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said on Monday. “Over 200 members, Republican members, will stick with Kevin McCarthy again and again and again.”


If McCarthy falls short of 218 votes on the first ballot, the vote will move to a second round for the first time in a century.

No clear candidate in the GOP exists to emerge as a replacement, but some centrists have threatened to join with Democrats to elect a bipartisan speaker if conservatives derail McCarthy’s bid.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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