Multiple GOP sources claim that Kevin McCarthy, House GOP Leader, is working quickly to secure the votes necessary to take the speaker’s seat. A hard-right group at his conference debates whether to challenge his bid to make it more difficult and force concessions.
In a Wednesday morning telephone call, McCarthy spoke privately to his closest confidantes and advisers just hours after his party appeared to be on track to win the House. However, they fell short of their optimistic expectations of a huge GOP landslide. According to a source familiar, McCarthy selected a group to join his whip team to help him win the speakership in January. As they began to plan and execute their game plan, McCarthy’s office was filled with several of their allies.
However, McCarthy’s ascension into the speakership will depend in large part on the size of the GOP majority. McCarthy could be stopped by the House Freedom Caucus if he maintains a narrow majority.
According to a source familiar with House Freedom Caucus deliberations, there are about two dozen members currently and incoming who would vote against McCarthy if McCarthy doesn’t make concessions. According to a source, they are currently discussing the possibility of putting up a nominal challenger for McCarthy in next week’s leadership elections to try to get the GOP leader to grant them more control over how the House functions.
According to a copy, McCarthy wrote Wednesday afternoon a letter to the conference asking for support and officially declaring his bid to be a speaker.
The next week’s election of the leadership is only the first step. To be elected speaker, McCarthy must win support from his conference next week. He would then need 218 votes from the full House. According to a source, McCarthy’s supporters would support a challenger in next week’s elections. This would make it possible for him to strike a deal to win their support in January’s speaker’s race. He wouldn’t have the ability to lose more than a few GOP votes in a small Republican majority.
As members weigh their options, and new lawmakers arrive in Washington to begin meetings, the Freedom Caucus strategy will be more apparent. According to a source, Rep. Matt Gaetz is an outspoken McCarthy critic but is closely associated with the Freedom Caucus. He has also begun calling members to discuss strategy regarding the speaker’s race.
One of their demands was to make it easier for members to call for the removal of a speaker. This idea, which McCarthy long rejected, was also used over former Speaker John Boehner (a Republican from Ohio). According to the same source, the Freedom Caucus demands more representation on the panel responsible for determining members’ committee assignments. They also called on GOP leaders and others to slow down the legislative process, giving them more time to examine even noncontroversial bills.
Hardliners could also demand promises regarding the launching of investigations and impeachment proceedings against President Joe Biden or his Cabinet members.
Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs told a right-wing streaming channel that McCarthy’s speakership was not a “foregone conclusion”. He complained that there had never been a red wave and accused McCarthy of “backpedaling on impeachment.”
A senior GOP source said that McCarty has many chips to cash in. “But he’s going to have to cash in each one.”
McCarthy could also appeal to detectors by offering plum committee assignments, office space, and other perks. There was talk, before Tuesday, of McCarthy adding a leadership role to his team. This could be used to win over critics.
McCarthy’s allies have been promoting his endorsement by former President Donald Trump on Tuesday for the speaker’s podium. This could be a way to win over staunch Trump supporters at the House GOP conference. McCarthy, who has worked hard to build a relationship with rebellious members of the Freedom Caucus, has been in contact with some members of that group for several weeks about their role in a GOP majority, according to Republican sources.
McCarthy’s allies think that Republicans will give credit to him for the hundreds and millions of dollars his outside group raised in key races. McCarthy has been calling the victorious GOP members and candidates since Tuesday night.
According to a familiar source, McCarthy’s pitch has been fairly straightforward to members: Republicans won two consecutive seats under his supervision, and he is close to giving Republicans the majority. This will allow them to exercise subpoena power, which will also serve to check the Biden administration.
McCarthy’s allies claim that McCarthy is open to hearing members’ opinions, but they fear that negotiating with members can become a slippery slope. McCarthy may not have any choice depending on the margins.
McCarthy had hoped that he would be able to grab at least 20 seats to have a cushion in the speaker’s race as well as to push his agenda. As many races are still too early to know, it’s not clear if they will be able to get there.
Other leadership races are in flux
Other than the race for the speaker, Tuesday’s poor performance by the GOP has thrown off other leadership races.
The race to become House GOP whip was competitive. However, Rep. Tom Emmer (who chairs the House GOP campaign arm) was considered the winner since he was likely to be rewarded if the party had a strong night.
Republicans believe Emmer could have a harder time winning a victory.
Emmer said Tuesday that he plans to continue running and that he does not know if a smaller majority will affect his bid. His pitch to the members was similar to McCarthy’s: “We delivered.”
In the meantime, Rep. Jim Banks, an Indiana ally of Trump and head of the conservative Republican Study Committee declared his candidacy for the whip’s post. Drew Ferguson, the Georgian deputy whip, is also running for the position. He believes that his experience as a whip’s whip’s team member will prove to be more valuable in a smaller majority where the chief voter counting job will be critical for governing.