‘No Plan B’: House Republican criticizes plans to block McCarthy speakership bid

092815 Mccarthy speaker pic
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. smiles as he is introduced to speak to the John Hay Initiative, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, at a hotel in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Jacquelyn Martin

‘No Plan B’: House Republican criticizes plans to block McCarthy speakership bid

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One House Republican is criticizing his fellow GOP lawmakers for threatening to vote against House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become the next House speaker, maintaining that there is “no Plan B.”

Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) denied whispers that McCarthy might not have the majority support needed to secure the speaker’s gavel, arguing most Republicans in the House want to see him in the top leadership position. His comments come amid a growing opposition toward McCarthy’s speakership as some House Republicans have posed direct challenges to his nomination, with others quietly considering other contenders.

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“There’s a lot of us out there,” Valadao told CNN on Wednesday. “I’m part of a group that’s been putting out a lot of letters to our colleagues, even on social media, that we’ll support McCarthy no matter what.”

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 in January. The GOP will hold a 222-213 advantage in the House for the next two years, giving McCarthy little room for error.

At least five GOP lawmakers have publicly said they won’t back his speakership bid, and McCarthy can’t afford to lose more than four votes, or else he risks sinking his chances when the House meets to vote on Jan. 3. That list includes Reps. Bob Good (VA), Andy Biggs (AZ), Matt Gaetz (FL), Ralph Norman (SC), and Matt Rosendale (MT).

However, Valadao maintained there were enough votes for McCarthy to boost him above the required threshold.

“There’s a large group of us that want to see Kevin McCarthy as leader even though we might disagree on specific policies, on rhetoric, on different things, but the reality is there is no one that’s worked harder to get us where we are today with a Republican majority,” Valadao said.

As McCarthy seeks to fend off the intraparty opposition, several Republicans are reportedly huddling behind another top member of their party for a possible leadership challenge. A group of lawmakers has approached No. 2 Republican Rep. Steve Scalise (LA) about running for House speaker in the next Congress should McCarthy’s bid fail, telling him to “just be ready,” sources familiar told Politico. 

Scalise could offer a more agreeable alternative to McCarthy as House speaker, but the closed-door conversations could put Scalise in a difficult position. Publicly, the Louisiana Republican has declined to comment on the matter, instead pointing to previous statements he made endorsing McCarthy and maintaining he would not run against him.

“Steve Scalise is a good friend of mine,” Valadao said. “But he himself and many others have said they’re supporting McCarthy and will continue to support McCarthy. Again, there is no Plan B here. The plan is to get him elected as speaker. At the end of the day — we could be there two, three days — it doesn’t really matter. The majority of the conference understands that without him, we wouldn’t even be having this debate.”

Scalise has not been organizing support or making calls related to a possible speakership bid, according to Politico. Some conservatives have hinted they would back the Louisiana Republican should he run but maintained there’s a list of other possible contenders they may consider.

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It’s not clear who Republicans would present as an alternative nominee to McCarthy, although Biggs has already announced a challenge to the minority leader’s bid.

If no candidate wins a majority of the votes cast during the roll call vote at the beginning of the Congress, the House will repeat the roll call until a speaker is elected. Congress has not had to repeat a roll call vote to elect a House speaker since 1923. McCarthy has vowed not to back down, noting he would go through several rounds of ballots until he wins the speaker position.

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