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Speakership in Major Doubt, McCarthy Caves on Key GOP Rebel Demand

Republicans’ slim House majority in the upcoming congressional session means that aspiring speaker Kevin McCarthy needs nearly every GOP rep’s votes. That’s giving discontented conservatives powerful leverage — and on Sunday, that leverage was evidenced by McCarthy granting a major concession to the holdouts.

However, it’s still far from clear that McCarthy will be elected on the first ballot –if at all.

In a conference call, McCarthy said he would agree to lower the threshold by which rank-and-file members can force a vote to depose a sitting speaker. Specifically, he said he would support a rule change that would allow any five members of the House majority to compel a vote to “vacate the chair.” That concession, however, is partial — some reps want any single member to have the power to force a no-confidence vote.

Normally a largely ceremonial undertaking, this session’s speaker vote could turn into an entertaining spectacle that paralyzes the House. Since 1923, every speaker has won on the first vote. An 1855 battle for House leadership, however, spanned two months and 133 votes.

To be elected speaker on Tuesday, McCarthy needs 218 votes. Since no Democrat is going to vote for a Republican, that means McCarthy will have to persuade nearly every one of the new session’s 222 GOP members to vote for him. Thanks to his party’s profound underperformance in the midterms, McCarthy is working with the slimmest majority for an aspiring first-time speaker since John Nance Garner in 1931.

An easier path to firing a speaker is just one of many rule changes that have been demanded by conservative Republicans who are fed up with a top-down approach to legislation that sees mammoth omnibus bills presented by leadership for a straight up-or-down vote, with no ability to offer amendments from the floor.

In a letter to GOP representatives, McCarthy voiced sympathy with their grievances:

“The simple fact is that Congress is broken and needs to change,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to his members, citing party leaders’ increasingly centralized power that has “relegated members of both parties to the sidelines, with mammoth bills being drafted behind closed doors and rushed to the floor at the last minute for an up-or-down, take it or leave it vote.” — Politico

However, McCarthy’s concession and olive branch landed with something of a thud. Nine GOP reps who’ve yet to commit to McCarthy issued a statement saying that, while it represented “progress,” “Mr McCarthy’s statement comes almost impossibly late to address continued deficiencies ahead of the opening of the 118th Congress on January 3rd…there continue to be missing specific commitments with respect to virtually every component of our entreaties.”

Among the unacknowledged demands: Conservatives want a commitment that House leadership will not work to defeat them in party primaries.

Meanwhile, the Freedom Caucus has asked for rule changes that include:

  • Broader membership in the group that doles out committee assignments
  • Allowing committee members to choose their own chairs
  • Allowing amendments from the floor
  • Being given five days to review legislation before voting on it

The new session starts Tuesday, and the speaker election is the first order of business — even before the swearing-in of new members. Representatives vote in alphabetical order, by saying a name. Watch for resisters to the McCarthy campaign to say the name of a fellow representative, or any name at all. (For instance, Thomas Massie could vote for Ron Paul on the first ballot.)

McCarthy can trim the necessary votes below 218 by persuading malcontents to skip the vote or simply reply “present.” That’s because, by precedent, winning the speakership requires a majority among those who vote for a specific name.

A failure to win on the first ballot would compel McCarthy to offer more concessions to the hold-outs. It could also lead to the emergence of a new speakership candidate. An impasse could also be broken by a House vote to allow an election by a plurality.

Thanks to the fact that several of the rebellious GOP members come early in the alphabet — including Andy Biggs (AZ), Dan Bishop (NC), Andrew Clyde (GA), Eli Crane (AZ) — we may know quickly if McCarthy’s first-ballot hopes are likely to be dashed.

22 Comments
  • Clinton Alexander says:

    McCarthy will be speaker it may take awhile but he will be speaker

  • Art LaPella says:

    Once again, if it goes 100 ballots, and 5 RINOs give up and elect Hakeem Jeffries, don’t say I didn’t warn you. That’s a lot easier to imagine than hundreds of Republicans dumping McCarthy.

  • Candyce Clanton says:

    I think if McCarthy has agreed to all to their concessions, especially about agreeing to being removed by 5 of them or less – whatever it turns out to be, then I think he should be given the Speakership at the beginning – after all they will all agree on amendments etc. He’s been remiss a bit & I understand their feelings – he’s not a fighter like Trump, but he may have learned some things from Trump & I think after giving in to their concessions, he should be able to win first round & hopefully he’ll learn to be stronger and a fighter.

    • 45 Auto says:

      While I see where you’re going with your thoughts Candyce, I’m not really sure there is time for on-the-job-training time for the Speaker to grow a spine. McCarthy’s problem is he has no courage and is too willing to compromise when he shouldn’t. IDK what will happen if he’s not chosen…but I’m worried the dims will somehow find an obscure way to slip someone like Liz Cheney in there! Mark my words…they have an evil plan already in place to cheat the American public again.

  • Sue s says:

    It’s time for republicans in the house to get it together. I’m sick of these small pockets of hold outs. If McCarthy doesn’t do a good job they can replace him. He’s worked hard. Raised a lot of money. And he got control of the house back. He’s not my first pick but he’s earned a shot at it.

  • Juan says:

    I don’t want McCarthy but I sure as hell don’t want any of those clowns looking to become house speaker. Since you don’t even have to be in politics and the crooked democrats haven’t been able to stop President Trump from holding any office the smartest thing republicans could ever do is make President Trump house speaker.
    As we’ve seen with that drunk piglosi, being speaker of the house has a lot of power behind it, not only that you’re third in line for the presidency. With all the corrupt and Unconstitutional acts brainless Biden and the complete moron hairlip Harris have done, both could be impeached easily bringing back President Trump for two years. Those two years wouldn’t stop him from being able to run in 2024 and he could do so much for our country if he had six years in office. Let’s face it McCarthy is and always has been working for the democrats and there’s a very good chance Pedo Joe & the ho will be impeached, no one in their right mind wants to see McCarthy become President and I don’t trust any of the republicans on that list to be speaker let alone President.
    This could very well save our country if the Brunson case doesn’t go anywhere.

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