House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) GOP opponents signal their stance is hardening and he is expected to go to the House floor to fight for the Speakership. The heat is starting to turn up on those withholding support, as McCarthy started posturing for a floor showdown.
House Democrats could pick the Speaker if Republicans “play games” on the House floor on January 3, McCarthy has warned recently. He was asked by CNN whether he would step down in the race for Speaker if he does not get support from 218 Republicans, but McCarthy shot down the question. He also warned on Fox News that if he does not get a majority of Speaker votes, GOP investigative priorities cannot go forward, reported The Hill.
“We can’t start investigating [Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas,” said McCarthy. “We can’t secure the border. We can’t lower the gasoline price by making us energy independent,” he added.
For the Speakership nomination, McCarthy won support from more than 80 percent, but 31 Republicans voted against him. Just a handful of GOP defectors on the floor could force multiple Speaker ballots or sink his bid with the GOP winning a slim majority. It would be around 222 seats to around 212 for Democrats, all of whom are expected to vote for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) for Speaker. And as the nominee only needs support from a majority of those voting for a candidate, a Speaker can be elected with fewer than 218 votes.
Positions, such as the seat for the late Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), who died just recently, absences and “present” votes lower the threshold that a Speaker will have to reach, and potentially give McCarthy some wiggle room.
Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), and Andy Biggs (Ariz.), are the five House Republicans that have explicitly said or strongly indicated that they will not vote for McCarthy on the House floor on January 3. But now, they say that they will not vote “present” during the Speakership vote.
Taking the same position as Norman, it was clarified by Biggs and Good that they will vote for an alternative candidate, while Rosendale added that he could only vote for McCarthy under “extreme circumstances,” saying that he will not vote “present.” “I’ve been a lawmaker since 2010. Never voted ‘present’ in my life. Don’t plan to start now,” said Gaetz. “If Jan 3. turns into a shitshow, it will be a direct result of McCarthy denialism. He doesn’t have the votes. He never had the votes. It is time to move on and consider candidates who lack five objectors in our conference,” Gaetz said. “Kevin’s brinksmanship and stubbornness pose the greatest risk of empowering Democrats to impact the Speakership vote,” he added.
On the other side, several other hard-line conservative lawmakers have declined to say how they plan to vote, including Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the House Freedom Caucus Chairman, who said he will not make his position public, as well as Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who has only said that no one has 218 votes for Speaker right now.
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) said that she is focused on the automatic recount in her election, and has declined to disclose her thinking on the Speakership.
McCarthy is the favorite to ultimately win the contest, as there is no viable GOP alternative to him for Speaker, but even Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who is one of McCarthy’s most vocal supporters, has worries about if there might be multiple floor ballots for Speaker. “I don’t want to see that happen. I can’t guarantee that not happening right now,” said Greene.