McCarthy overcomes first hurdle in becoming speaker, faces long road to January


McCarthy did not endorse Trump, but said the “intensity” Trump brings to the electorate could aid the party. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/File) J. Scott Applewhite

McCarthy overcomes first hurdle in becoming speaker, faces long road to January

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) overcame his first hurdle in obtaining the speaker’s gavel after receiving support from more than half of his conference during a closed-ballot vote on Tuesday, but he lacks backing from the 218 members needed to secure the position in the floor vote in January.

Former House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-AZ) announced a challenge to McCarthy during an appearance on Newsmax on Monday evening after hinting at a bid as the increasingly powerful conservative caucus continues to flex its muscle, pushing for rule changes that would diminish McCarthy’s power should he become speaker.

The reforms include easing the process for the motion to vacate the chair, a mechanism used to oust a sitting speaker; changes to the Steering Committee, which is tasked with selecting who chairs and sits on different standing committees; and a push to slow down the legislative process by allowing for more amendments.

McCarthy ultimately beat Biggs in a 188-31 vote.

McCarthy’s path to the speakership became more tenuous after Republicans fell significantly short of their anticipated red wave, forcing him to walk a tightrope in garnering support from the different factions of his party, as Republicans are expected to have a razor-thin majority next year.


Others within the conference have called for McCarthy to provide a clearer blueprint for how he would lead in the majority, with some taking issue with the way he supported certain candidates during the primaries. He also faced questions on whether he would back conservative priorities and faced criticism for not delaying the leadership vote since the party had not secured a House majority as of Tuesday.

But McCarthy argued at a candidate forum on Monday that he has delivered a majority and vowed not to “solicit or accept” votes for the speakership from the Democrats.

McCarthy critic Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said he doesn’t believe the California Republican will have the support needed to secure the position in January, taking aim at his leadership in the minority.

“There is precisely one moment in time when there is a vote to determine who the speaker will be — that is on Jan. 3, and I think we will have far better options than Kevin,” he told reporters on Monday evening.

“This is a process of elimination exercise. Right now, any five people for any reason, or no reason at all, in the Republican conference can determine that they have the veto power — and that’s not just me and for my friends, that’s also people in the Tuesday Group. That’s people that have a more moderate perspective,” he added, referring to House leadership’s power over the GOP conference.


McCarthy previously vied for, and then later dropped out of, the race to succeed then-Speaker John Boehner in 2015 due to a lack of support following a gaffe related to the Select Committee on Benghazi and rumors of a personal life scandal he vehemently denied but were indirectly questioned in an open letter posted by the late Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).

Multiple members said they believe McCarthy has earned the position, highlighting his fundraising prowess and leadership while serving as the top Republican in the minority.

Even some of his previous critics, including firebrand conservative Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), have thrown their support behind McCarthy, telling reporters on Monday that it is time to “unify around” him ahead of taking the majority next year.

The floor vote is slated to take place in early January.

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