The commitments occur as McCarthy attempts to succeed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as the most powerful lawmaker in the lower chamber, a maneuver complicated by lackluster midterm election results that will provide Republicans only a narrow majority. The opposition has led 54 members and members-elect of the Republican caucus to swear allegiance to McCarthy, according to a report from Axios.
“Kevin McCarthy has my vote on the first ballot and every ballot until he’s elected Speaker,” said a statement from Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX). “My colleagues can waste time and keep those gavels out of Republican hands longer than necessary or they can join the overwhelming majority of our conference, unite behind Kevin and get to work for their constituents. My decision is final.”
“I know that some of my colleagues have concerns, but there’s a serious risk of letting Democrats have a hand in choosing the next speaker, which would be a disaster for our shared conservative goals,” added Representative-Elect Harriet Hageman (R-WY), who will replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). “It’s time to move forward with our House majority and not squander it. Kevin has earned this. It’s time to unite and get to work to fight for the American people.”
The show of support may not matter as long as Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Ralph Norman (R-NC), Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), and Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) remain committed to their vow of voting as a bloc either for or against the McCarthy candidacy. Other lawmakers, including Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), have not publicly committed to supporting McCarthy.
The California Republican, who has served in the House since 2007, appears to have expected challenges from the more conservative wing of his party. The lawmaker promised in a letter sent shortly after the midterms that he would “be a listener every bit as much as a Speaker, striving to build consensus from the bottom-up rather than commanding the agenda from the top-down.”
McCarthy has also vowed to avoid seeking additional votes from Democratic lawmakers. Presuming that all 435 members of the House vote for a candidate, opposition from even a few Republicans could disrupt his path to securing the top position in the chamber. The current seat tallies for the next House of Representatives include 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats.
A more recent letter from five incumbents and two incoming freshmen demanded a series of reforms the next speaker must pursue to win their votes. The members’ suggested changes include single-subject bills, the abstention of party leadership from backing candidates in primary races, and the ability to force a vote on the speakership at any time.
Biggs, who chairs the conservative House Freedom Caucus, announced intentions earlier this month to run for the speakership. He said in an opinion piece that further leadership from McCarthy would bolster the establishment “uniparty” in Congress. “We cannot let this all too rare opportunity to effectuate structural change pass us by because it is uncomfortable to challenge the Republican candidate who is a creature of the establishment status quo, or because the challenge is accompanied by some minimal risk,” he contended.
Support for Biggs over McCarthy is not universal in the House Freedom Caucus, as vocal member Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was one of the lawmakers expressing unconditional support for the California Republican.