A week after the 2022 midterm elections, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) won the Republican Party’s nomination to become the next speaker of the House.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Not even close.
The GOP caucus is fractured, and McCarthy already has at least one challenger for the post. A candidate must win a simple majority (218 votes if all 435 members are present), which gives very little leeway for defectors as Republicans currently hold 221 seats to Democrats’ 213, with one race still unsettled.
In the meantime, McCarthy is trying to get his ducks in a row. A slew of splinter caucuses are battling for a share of power, meaning the California congressman has got to be all things to all people.
The situation is dicey. It’s dangerous to announce a challenge to the powerful McCarthy, currently the House minority leader, because 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) told The Hill. “They want to be very careful. So 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 has already announced he will challenge him for the gavel.
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 brazenly coming out against McCarthy. Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) last week said he would not vote for him, becoming the fifth member to declare firm opposition to McCarthy’s 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 would not vote for McCarthy or could simply vote “present” on the House floor.
GOP members are furiously searching for a replacement who can pull all the party’s factions together. “We’re talking about who the other candidates are, who can get into it,” Good told conservative radio host John Fredricks on Wednesday. “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.”
Various factions are jockeying for a piece of the pie. The conservative House Freedom Caucus has made numerous moves to be a central power broker among the GOP. The caucus, made up of 30-40 Republicans, last month sent potential new members a 55-page “Road Map” for the party, with a host of proposed rule changes, many of which sought to reduce the power of party leaders.
Other cliques are also looking for power. One known as the Problem Solvers’ Caucus pledges to be a centrist band that can help the GOP win battles in the House but will look for bipartisan support from Democrats.
Politico reported that the co-leaders of the Problem Solvers caucus, Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), met for dinner. They talked about changes that could unify and empower the 50 or so members of their group, including one idea that it would only endorse bills that have Republican and Democratic co-sponsors when introduced.
Then there’s the Main Street Caucus, which touts itself on Twitter as “the 2nd largest Caucus of Republicans in the House,” adding that its top priorities are “implementing pro-growth policies for small business owners, fostering economic and individual prosperity [and] delivering results for the American people.”
“It’s time we flex our muscles,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), co-leader of the Main Street Caucus, said, according to Newsmax.
The situation is getting even weirder.
House members “say preliminary conversations are happening among Republicans and Democrats about a possible contingency candidate if McCarthy cannot win the gavel after multiple ballots in the new GOP-majority House next month,” The Hill reported.
“We’ve had preliminary talks with the Democrats,” Rep. Don Bacon told reporters, according to C-SPAN. “If we have multiple, multiple votes, and they’re not willing to support what the far majority of the conference wants to do, we’re not going to be held hostage by them.”
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.