Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wants to be speaker of the House, not an unusual desire as it’s just a tiny step up from his current position of minority leader.
But unfortunately for him, he might have just enough enemies to keep him from wielding the gavel.
A candidate must win a simple majority (218 if all 435 members are present), which gives very little leeway for defectors — Republicans won 222 seats to Democrats’ 213 in the midterms, with two races still unsettled.
Already, five Republicans have said they won’t back McCarthy. And now there’s a new report that Republicans might do an end run around him and pick the GOP’s No. 2 leader in the House, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).
POLITICO reports that a group of lawmakers has quietly approached Scalise about running for speaker if McCarthy comes up short.
“Steve, just be ready,” one member currently backing McCarthy told the liberal political website. Late last month, after it was clear Republicans had taken control of the House, Scalise ran unopposed for majority leader and won easily. The member said he “could be a good consensus leader if things don’t go well for Kevin.”
The situation is dicey. Scalise isn’t openly running for the position because it’s dangerous to announce a challenge to the powerful McCarthy: if someone tries and fails, that member could well be punished for their temerity.
“If somebody were to come out now and we didn’t deliver enough votes to stop Mr. McCarthy, that there would be a real potential for blowback,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) recently told The Hill. “They want to be very careful. So I think I think people are interested. They’ve expressed it to some of us … I think people are being wary.”
Biggs should know. He is a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus — one group of members that aren’t entirely happy with McCarthy — and ran against McCarthy last month but lost.
What makes matters worse, Biggs told The Hill there could be as many as 20 House Republican members who will be “hard no’s” on McCarthy. That would clearly deny him the gavel.
Some Republicans are coming out against McCarthy. Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) this month said he will not vote for McCarthy, becoming at least the fifth member to declare firm opposition to his bid for speaker.
“There’s nothing about his leadership or lack thereof when we were in the minority that would give you any indication he’s the right person to lead us in the fight to save the country,” Good said, according to Forbes.
Along with Biggs and Good, Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) Matt Rosendale (R-MT) and Ralph Norman (R-SC) have said they will not vote for McCarthy — or could simply vote “present” on the House floor.
“We’re talking about who the other candidates are, who can get into it,” Good told conservative radio host John Fredricks.
“Again, we’re not going to get it publicly throw those names out there because then the disinformation campaign is directed towards them, then the retaliatory efforts go towards them,” he said.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.