McCarthy looks to sway critics in final days leading up to speaker’s vote

Kevin McCarthy
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., holds a news conference following GOP leadership elections for the 117th Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

McCarthy looks to sway critics in final days leading up to speaker’s vote

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With the speaker’s vote just days away, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is making a final push to sway potential defectors as he looks to lock down the support needed to secure the gavel, with the California Republican laying out possible concessions during a call with a small group of members on Friday afternoon.

According to four sources familiar with the call, the discussion placed a large focus on potential changes to the motion to vacate the chair as conservatives push for the parliamentary procedure to be fully restored to allow for any member to call for the removal of a sitting speaker.

MCCARTHY CRITICS TAKE AIM AT SPEAKER HOPEFUL’S TACTICS TO SWAY VOTES

McCarthy proposed lowering the threshold to five members in an effort to placate his critics, who argue the mechanism is necessary to hold whoever holds the speakership accountable. Critics have argued that the tool, which was altered by Democrats when they took the majority allowing for just the majority leader to have the authority to file the motion, could be weaponized for leverage over legislative decisions. Centrists have stated that they will tank the rules package if the motion to vacate the chair is fully restored.

“[The] Freedom Caucus wants five — better than one. I don’t personally like it,” one member on the call said of the potential new threshold.

Another senior GOP source noted that some members on the call were unhappy that they learned about the news of the potential change to the motion to vacate via the media, with CNN first reporting the proposal on Thursday evening, and not from McCarthy personally.

“When we learn more about the rules package from the press before this call, it’s not going to go well,” the source told the Washington Examiner.

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Two Republican sources familiar with the discussion said McCarthy asked House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-PA) and conservative Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), neither of whom have committed to voting for McCarthy, whether they were any closer to a deal. One senior Republican described their response as “ noncommittal,” adding that they voiced some conservatives have concerns that stem beyond the rules package, but did not offer information on what could move the needle beyond changes to the rules.

While McCarthy still doesn’t have the votes needed to obtain the position, two sources said they expect discussions to continue in the coming days.

“No concrete package to show at the moment, but if support is there, we may have some agreements,” one lawmaker said.

Facing a slim majority after Republicans fell short of their anticipated red wave, McCarthy can lose just four votes on the floor unless his critics opt not to vote or vote present to bring down the threshold.

Five Republicans — former House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-AZ), who launched a bid against McCarthy for speaker, and Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). Matt Rosendale (R-MY), Ralph Norman (R-SC), and Bob Good (R-VA) — have vowed to vote against him, with others suggesting that they are leaning against supporting the California Republican for the role. An additional group of conservatives has laid out a list of demands for substantial changes to House rules, which, in addition to the motion to vacate, include better committee positions and chairmanships for hard-right lawmakers, reining in spending, a ban on leadership playing in primaries, and a return to regular order.

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