Though the House still hasn’t been called yet after the midterms, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) kicked off his long-awaited journey to the House speakership on Wednesday, sending a letter to the rest of the House Republican Conference that formally announced his campaign for the top leadership role.
He’s already facing stumbling blocks from the chamber’s hard-core Trumpists.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has been privately calling other conference members to urge them to vote against McCarthy, according to the Washington Examiner.
The Florida Republican’s been pretty clear about his ambivalence toward McCarthy’s speakership ambitions: He told Fox News in August that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a fellow MAGA bulldog, ought to run for speaker, and he’s even pledged several times to nominate ex-President Donald Trump (who doesn’t seem very interested in the spot).
And Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) warned on Wednesday that McCarthy winning the speakership was “not a foregone conclusion.”
“I would say maybe not so fast,” the Arizona Republican said during an interview on one of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “Lindell TV” streaming programs. “Maybe we should have a good discussion within the confines of our internal body.”
Additionally, CNN reported on Wednesday that, per a source familiar with the discussions among the deeply conservative House Freedom Caucus, about two dozen current and incoming members are poised to vote against McCarthy if he doesn’t agree to their demands on committee assignments and other House functions.
And those members, loud and uncompromising, stand to hold a lot of leverage over McCarthy if the GOP manages to take the House back: Republicans’ highly anticipated “red wave” ended up being little more than a few droplets, meaning McCarthy won’t have much room to spare on votes.
On the flip side, McCarthy’s already been freely pandering to far-right extremists, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ), for a while now, starting with him crawling to Mar-a-Lago just weeks after Trump incited the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
After House Democrats stripped Greene and Gosar of their committee assignments last year for posting violent rhetoric aimed at President Joe Biden and other high-profile Democrats, McCarthy vowed not only to restore their committee assignments but maybe even give them “better” assignments than before.
And then there was McCarthy’s utterly flaccid response to Greene and Gosar attending a white nationalist conference earlier this year: Having private “conversations” with them.