House Republicans are preparing to vote on their leadership for the next two years, including for the leader they hope will become speaker of the House when that vote is held in January. Current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is favored to win his party’s leadership election, which requires a simple majority, but getting to 218 in January will be more difficult given that Republicans are on track to have a very narrow House majority and they aren’t all committed to McCarthy.
The far-right House Freedom Caucus is planning to oppose McCarthy, with Rep. Andy Biggs announcing on Newsmax that he would run. Biggs is the guy who described Jan. 6 as a “normal tourist visit.” In 2021, he pressed McCarthy to expel Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney from the House Republican Conference. At CPAC this year, he talked about defunding the FBI and Department of Justice. So that’s Kevin McCarthy’s competition.
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McCarthy did lock down support from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, prompting a lot of questions about what exactly he promised her to get that support. Rep. Matt Gaetz, often a Greene ally, was skeptical:
All this is why the real action in the speaker’s race will come in January. It’s one thing for McCarthy to get a majority of House Republicans to vote for him. But when the full House votes he’ll need a majority of everyone, and there’s a good chance some Republicans will refuse to give that. That’s why McCarthy tried to woo conservative Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar into a party switch, which Cuellar refused. Meanwhile, moderate Republican Rep. Don Bacon has said he would be willing to work with Democrats to elect some kind of compromise speaker if McCarthy doesn’t have the votes.
"I will support Kevin McCarthy, but if we do get to that point, I do want the country to work and we need to govern. We can't sit neutral; we can't have total gridlock for two years," Bacon told NBC News.
Tuesday’s Republican House leadership vote is the first step for McCarthy, and it will show how widespread his support is in his conference. What it won’t tell is how many of his members will absolutely refuse to vote for him come January. And since McCarthy is not remotely the vote-counter that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is, that should keep him sweating through the holidays.
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