House Republicans are gearing up for an anticipated floor fight over the speakership in January, raising the possibility of a messy intraparty showdown that could bring uncertainty and chaos just as Republicans prepare to enter their new majority.
GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy still insists he will have the 218 votes needed to secure the speakership. But conservative hardliners seeking to plot McCarthy’s ouster say otherwise.
“He doesn’t have the votes,” said Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, a former co-chair of the Freedom Caucus who lost to McCarthy for his conference’s nomination to be speaker, of a potential floor fight. “We can move to different candidates. I’m willing to entertain anyone else.”
Biggs added that McCarthy is “in denial.”
Other McCarthy’s foes say another candidate will emerge and that talks have already begun to recruit a replacement, CNN reports.
“There’s quiet talks going on with other candidates,” said Rep. Bob Good, a Virginia Republican who’s one of the handful of conservative hardliners publicly saying they are “hard no” votes against McCarthy. “But as you might imagine, those candidates are going to be very hesitant or reluctant to be in any way public.”
McCarthy needs 218 votes to be elected Speaker, so he can only afford 4 defections from his own party, and at least five House Republicans from the hard-line conservative wing have publicly said or strongly indicated that they will not vote for McCarthy on the floor.
If McCarthy falls under the 218 votes needed to claim the speakership, the House would keep voting until someone wins a majority of support from the members in attendance who are choosing a specific candidate and not voting “present.” If that happens, McCarthy insists he still won’t drop out.
“I’ll take the speaker’s fight to the floor,” McCarthy told CNN.
McCarthy also said he was willing to go through as many rounds of voting on the floor as it takes, predicting: “I’ll get there.”
Meanwhile, Members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus have pledged to oppose the California Republican on the floor and calling on the GOP leader to drop out of the race now so they can start the search for a serious alternative.
The commitment from both camps to take the speakership battle to January is shaping up to be a political bloodbath.