Kevin McCarthy needs 218 votes to be named speaker of the House of Representatives. The California Republican is facing opposition from a group of “hardline” conservatives preventing him from winning the gavel. As the Republican party has a blade-thin majority in the House, it only takes 4 GOP “nays” to derail any speaker vote.
Matt Gaetz of Florida leads the opposing representatives and has relatively strong opinions about his colleague. “We have zero trust in Kevin McCarthy. This is someone whose compass is like a wet finger in the wind.”
This statement demonstrates the evident struggle between the factions within the Republican party. While McCarthy is widely considered a moderate, Gaetz is a member of the Freedom Caucus, the most conservative bloc of the GOP.
Despite Gaetz’s efforts to keep McCarthy out of the leadership role, signs are emerging that the California Congressman and members of the far-right Freedom Caucus are making progress. If that is indeed the case, it means McCarthy could flip some crucial votes, swinging the pendulum in his favor.
Even then, McCarthy will still be under a watchful eye. In a Fox News appearance on Thursday, January 5, Gaetz clearly stated, “If Kevin McCarthy doesn’t bow out, then he will have to live the entirety of his speakership in a straightjacket constructed by these rules that we’re working on now.”
Despite this promise of constriction, McCarthy still maintains his trademark upbeat demeanor. Even after being defeated by 11 consecutive ballots over three days, he stated, “I felt very positive yesterday. I feel more positive today.”
As Kevin McCarthy continues to carve out a deal with the roughly 20 representatives opposing him, it still looks like he will not be able to secure 218 votes. The House reconvenes today at noon. It is possible that some “no” holdouts could flip to “yes,” but this will come at a high cost.
The negotiated rule changes include a single legislator having the power to force a vote to remove a sitting speaker. Previously, McCarthy had agreed that at least five lawmakers would be required to make such a “motion to vacate.” The negotiations would also give Freedom Caucus members coveted seats on influential committees.
Amidst the conflict, McCarthy’s allies pledged to support him no matter how long it takes to see him named Speaker of the House. As Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., the new chief deputy whip and No. 2 vote counter, said, “If it takes till tomorrow or if it takes till the 4th of July, Kevin will be the speaker.”