Despite the fact that Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy won his party’s nomination to be the next speaker of the House, he may not have enough votes in the House to win the seat.
A trio of conservatives in the House of Representatives have announced that they intend not to vote for McCarthy to be speaker in January when the next session of Congress will begin. With only six races uncalled across the country nearly two weeks after election day, Republicans are looking at an incredibly slim majority, and McCarthy is potentially vulnerable to lose the speaker election if he fails to win every vote from his party.
Of the called races, The GOP currently holds 218 seats, the bare minimum to claim a majority of the House and the number of votes needed to become House speaker. The GOP could take anywhere between 220 and 224, and McCarthy has room to lose between two and six votes in his bid for speaker. This comes after McCarthy fell 30 votes shy of his targeted 218 in the nomination vote earlier this week.
Currently, the three Republican members who have publicly stated that they will not support McCarthy are Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Matt Rosendale (R-MT).
Biggs was an unsuccessful challenger to McCarthy for speaker nomination this week and explained why he opposed McCarthy in an op-ed for American Greatness.
“The Republicans in Congress have decided it’s better to cling to the status quo than to make change,” Biggs wrote Thursday. “I was told in 2020 that we were in the minority and shouldn’t make changes to our leadership. This year, I was told we would have a ‘red wave’ gaining 25 seats or more, so we wouldn’t want to change our leader, that our leaders earned the right to lead again.
“Now I am told that we will barely have a three-seat majority, so we must not change leaders in order to protect unity,” he continued. “I disagree.”
The op-ed was shared by Gaetz who claimed that McCarthy is “threatening and pressuring incoming freshmen House members to vote for him” and said, “We have the votes to force a change.”
Rosendale also said on Twitter that a leadership change is necessary so that the power of the speaker can be reduced and the legislative process can be opened so backbenchers have more say.
“Each Member of Congress has earned and deserves equal participation in the legislative process. That will only happen if the House returns to the rules that governed this legislative body before Nancy Pelosi took control. Kevin McCarthy isn’t willing to make those changes,” Rosendale tweeted Wednesday.
“He wants to maintain the status quo, which consolidates power into his hands and a small group of individuals he personally selects. We need a leader who can stand up to a Democrat-controlled Senate and President Biden, and unfortunately, that isn’t Kevin McCarthy,” he added.
The conservative trio believe they hold an upper hand with McCarthy, and that they can leverage their votes to draw concessions and promises from him. The primary demands of these House members, all three members of the House Freedom Caucus, are that rules in the house must change.
The House Freedom Caucus has been rallying to return a regular order to the house, requiring that every single piece of major legislation should be debated and voted in committee before going to the House floor. They say a return to regular order is particularly important with budget and appropriations bills.
In recent years, Congress has seen such bills assembled on the floor by leadership, notably Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and passed with limited debate. Some cases even saw House leaders vote to suspend normal operating procedures to expedite legislation.
Freedom Caucus members also want a rule requiring all legislation be made available to read for over 72 hours prior to a vote; a ban on tying unrelated bills together and passing them all at once; more representation on top House committees, including the important House Rules Committee; and a dramatic rules change that would end the House speaker’s ability to appoint the committee chairman and instead allow a panel’s individual members to vote on that position.
While the chance of such changes is minimal under normal circumstances, the trio are emboldened by the slim GOP majority, and believe they have an opportunity to force change.