House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dared those in his caucus making noise about opposing his speakership to keep up the act, warning that Democrats could end up picking the next speaker if House Republicans don’t come together.
“We have to speak as one voice. We will only be successful if we work together, or we’ll lose individually. This is very fragile — that we are the only stopgap for this Biden administration,” McCarthy said on Newsmax. “And if we don’t do this right, the Democrats can take the majority. If we play games on the floor, the Democrats can end up picking who the Speaker is.”
McCarthy has been in campaign mode since the midterms, as he prepares for the new year when he will need to get 218 votes in House elections to secure his role as speaker.
McCarthy’s public warning is a shift in strategy – calling his far-right challengers’ bluff, after spending the last two weeks trying to woo them with various shiny objects. The California Republican now says he will do whatever it takes to be the next speaker. He reportedly has no plans to drop his bid and will force a floor vote — or multiple floor votes — if needed, according to Punchbowl News.
But this might come with the cost of further rupturing an already tense divide among House Republicans and could lead to a floor fight that hasn’t happened in a century — the last time a speakership bid included floor-fight drama was in 1923, when Rep. Frederick Gillett (R-MA) had to brawl with his own party members for two days to finally get reelected as speaker.
McCarthy reportedly believes that the next speaker shouldn’t be dictated by a small group of lawmakers at the expense of the rest of the caucus, according to Punchbowl News. McCarthy allies told Punchbowl that they have around 150 lawmakers who will not vote for anyone but the California Republican in January. But Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), who challenged McCarthy earlier this month in the House GOP leadership elections, said on Monday that he knows of at least 20 firm “no” votes against McCarthy.
McCarthy’s tactical shift came after he spent the last two weeks pulling out the big guns to try and appease the MAGA-aligned conservative Freedom Caucus members. He has been promising them opportunities to punish Democrats for their so-called offenses over the last four years.
On Wednesday, with hopes of wooing the far-right members of his caucus, he called for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign or face an impeachment inquiry next year. McCarthy also vowed to remove Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from House committees under his leadership. And he reportedly promised key Freedom Caucus members, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), they could investigate current-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Justice Department over conspiracy theories that Jan. 6 rioters were mistreated after they were arrested for participating in the insurrection.
But despite all his efforts to appease the detractors, McCarthy was still hemorrhaging votes last week in his bid to speakership. On Tuesday of last week, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) joined four other fellow conservative Freedom Caucus members when he said he was a “hard” no against McCarthy for speaker.