Despite Trump’s efforts working the phone lines, McCarthy continues to face an increasingly narrow pathway as he jockeys to lock down the speaker’s gavel amid mounting defections from hard-line conservatives who appear unswayed by Trump’s overtures.
Trump endorsed McCarthy for speaker, and while he hasn’t been too vociferous in public about that support, he has been phoning lukewarm Republicans in an effort to win them over, the New York Times reported. Earlier this month, his son, Donald Trump Jr., scolded GOP defectors, many of whom are members of the conservative Freedom Caucus.
“So in their quest to ‘own the establishment’ by stopping Kevin McCarthy, Andy Biggs and others are actually in effect empowering those who impeached Donald Trump. This is a Democrat dream come true for a GOP Congress,” Trump Jr. tweeted, pointing to an article about how some members of Congress have floated Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who backed Trump’s impeachment, as an alternative.
Republicans won 222 House seats to the Democrats’ 213 during the midterm elections. Typically, 218 is the magic number to become speaker, but that threshold can shrink if members of Congress choose to vote “present.” During a party meeting last month, 36 Republicans voted against McCarthy getting the nod to be speaker. The full floor vote for the speaker’s race is set to take place in January when the new Congress gets sworn in.
“We all operate as five,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) told an Axios reporter Wednesday, explaining that he, as well as Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Bob Good (R-VA), and Matt Rosendale (R-MT) will all make a group decision on McCarthy’s speakership bid. Both Biggs and Gaetz have already opposed McCarthy for the No. 1 House slot.
Some of Trump’s acolytes, most notably Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), have thrown their weight behind McCarthy fretting that defections could provide an opening for Democrats to exploit given the slim GOP majority.
The former president harbors some misgivings about McCarthy as speaker but sees him as the most viable option and is keen on averting the speakership getting tossed to a more centrist member of the caucus, the New York Times reported.
McCarthy declined to endorse Trump’s 2024 bid during a press conference on Wednesday. He also dodged a question about why he has struggled to lock down the necessary votes to be speaker, knocking a reporter for asking an “inappropriate question.”
Trump’s endeavor to shape the Senate GOP leadership election fell flat last month. He fumed and opposed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to be the top Senate Republican, but the Kentucky sage managed to overcome the leadership battle against him.