Can Kevin McCarthy possibly avoid the fate of John Boehner and Paul Ryan?
To the extent things have changed, they’ve changed for the worse.
The Freedom Caucus is more amped on its own supply than ever before; the MAGA-infused GOP conference now has members like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) in addition to the old reliables like Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX); and McCarthy is stuck with a majority so narrow that GOP control of the House isn’t even official yet.
All of those dynamics brought us to today’s scheduled vote on the House GOP leadership for the new Congress.
The issue today was less whether McCarthy had the support from a majority of the GOP conference. He did, as evidenced by his election this afternoon. It’s that far-right members are threatening to withhold their vote from McCarthy for speaker on the House floor in January, where the narrow GOP majority means McCarthy could fall short of the votes needed to win.
McCarthy is trying to lock up those commitments now, and it’s been a chore.
Yesterday, just a day before the closed door elections, the conservative House Freedom Caucus put up Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) as a symbolic challenger — signaling to McCarthy that he doesn’t have the 218 votes he needs to secure his role as the speaker in the new year.
McCarthy has been here before. In 2015, when he didn’t have enough support from the conservative group, McCarthy was forced to end his speakership run and withdraw his candidacy.
Some far-right members like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Greene have already endorsed McCarthy’s bid for speaker, but it is clear there are real challenges on the California Republican’s possible path to securing the speakership.
Many of the pro-Trump Republicans have been demanding that McCarthy agree to a number of proposed rule changes for their votes, one of which is a push to make it easier for lawmakers to call for floor votes on ousting a sitting speaker — the Freedom Caucus used this against Boehner in 2015.
In addition, they want more control over what committees Republican lawmakers get assigned to and are asking for more representation on the steering committee, The Hill is reporting. Some far-right conservative members are also pushing for promises around impeachment proceedings and investigations into the Biden administration and family.
“There’s many times where we have come to the leader, the minority leader, over the last two years and asked him to fight on various opportunities and various issues, and I have not seen the demonstrated fight that we’re looking for,” Rep. Bob Good (R-VA), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, said, according to POLITICO.
Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), the chair of the Freedom Caucus who has been negotiating with McCarthy, said that their Monday “conversation went well,” according to NBC News.