Who will be the anointed one to lead House Republicans in 2023? Before the midterm elections, it appeared this task would fall to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). But now that the highly-anticipated red wave has evaporated into a crimson trickle, there are rumblings within GOP circles suggesting a lack of confidence in the lawmaker’s leadership.
Despite McCarthy’s simpatico relationship with former President Donald Trump, these doubts could bubble up into a movement to place someone else in the position he has long coveted. But even if he survives the onslaught of criticism, will he be able to rally the troops against the Biden administration?
Can Kevin McCarthy Survive?
Conservative Republican lawmakers are reportedly suggesting that leadership elections be delayed in the lead-up to closed-door votes next week that will decide who will fill the roles of speaker of the House and other important positions. They point out that the disposition of the lower chamber has still not been decided yet, meaning it is not clear whether the GOP will assume control in January. At the time of publishing, the GOP remains one House seat short of securing the 218 needed for a majority.
“We don’t even know if we have the majority or who’s in the majority,” House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-PA) told The Hill. “People haven’t come to Washington, D.C., because they don’t know if they’ve won their races yet.”
“And how can they be expected to vote for a rules package, how we run this place, or leadership if they haven’t met these people, they haven’t heard their pitch?” he added. However, McCarthy is still working to win his colleagues over. Some believe that he will get the job.
“He’s our best strategist. He’s our best fundraiser. He’s our best recruiter. If it weren’t for Kevin’s efforts, we wouldn’t be back in the majority. So I just feel like he’s going to get the gavel,” said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA). But others, like Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) suggested that McCarthy is not quite in the clear just yet. “It takes 218 votes,” he told reporters on Nov. 10. “And there’s not a soul in this town right now that has 218 votes.”
An Alternative Voice
Looking to upset McCarthy’s plans is Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, who announced his intentions to secure the top spot on Monday evening, Nov. 14. He said:
“We have a new paradigm here, and I think the country wants a different direction from the House of Representatives. And it’s a new world, and, yes, I’m going to be nominated tomorrow to — to the position of Speaker of the House… We’ll see if we can get the job done and the votes. It’s going to be tough. I mean, Kevin — Kevin has raised a lot of money and done a lot of things. But this is not just about Kevin. I think it’s about the institutional direction and trajectory.”
And yet some members of the Freedom Caucus are worried that the top job could be snatched away if GOP unity doesn’t hold firm. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) posited that if her party is divided, a handful of House Republicans could join Democrats to support a compromise speaker candidate. “We have to elect Kevin McCarthy,” Greene told reporters Monday. “I can’t support a challenge that will allow the Democrats to — to elect their own speaker by pulling some of ours.”
McCarthy will need to secure a majority of his party’s votes today (Tuesday, Nov. 15) in a secret ballot to secure his nomination. After that, the role goes to a full House vote on the first day of the new Congress. With the 218 seats not yet secured, his potential future position is still very much a hypothetical situation, and Rep. Greene’s warnings will likely be echoing through the lower chamber as Republicans make their choice.
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