McCarthy Backed as House GOP Leader in First Step Toward Speakership

Billy House, Erik Wasson and Emily Wilkins

Tue, 15 November 2022 at 10:44 pm

(Bloomberg) — House Republicans reelected Kevin McCarthy as their leader on Tuesday, but dissent among conservatives remains a hurdle for him claiming the speaker’s gavel when the GOP takes charge of the chamber next year as expected.McCarthy, 57, won votes from 188 Republicans taking part in a closed party leadership election, according to two people in the room. A conservative who challenged him, Arizona Representative Andy Biggs, got 31 votes.

Although the vote wasn’t close, it showed how much work the California Republican has ahead of him to consolidate support before the full House votes for speaker on Jan. 3. Being elected to the top House post requires at least 218 votes — a majority of the chamber — and with Republicans projected to have only a very slim majority McCarthy can’t afford much splintering among Republicans.

“We have our work cut out for us,” McCarthy said Tuesday after emerging from the meeting. He said he’s talking with GOP lawmakers about changes in House rules in order that could be made to win their support.

Discontent among Republicans has been simmering in both the House and Senate after they fell well short of expectations in last Tuesday’s midterm election. As of Tuesday afternoon, GOP candidates were declared winners in 217 House races, with about a dozen still pending. Democrats held on to control of the Senate and may be able to expand it if incumbent Raphael Warnock defeats Republican Herschel Walker in a Georgia runoff in December.

Adding to the turmoil is a widening rift over the influence of former President Donald Trump, who is expected to announce a comeback bid for the White House on Tuesday night. Trump’s tight grip on the Republican Party may have been loosened as some in the GOP were blaming him for the lackluster performance of candidates he endorsed.

McCarthy acknowledged “we could have won bigger.”

Texas Republican Representative Ronny Jackson said McCarthy has earned the right to be speaker for his leadership through the past two elections.

“We didn’t get to where we wanted to be, obviously, where we thought we were going to be,” Jackson said. “But we won the majority. He deserves credit for that as well.”

But Biggs and other conservative dissidents said they weren’t giving up and will continue to demand changes to House rules that they’ve long sought that would give more power to individual members and committee chairmen.

“McCarthy does not have the votes needed to become the next Speaker of the House and his speakership should not be a foregone conclusion,” Biggs said in a tweet before the vote.

Biggs is a member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, which bedeviled the last two Republican speakers.

The conservative grievances against McCarthy are wide ranging and include accusations he has been too soft in opposing Biden’s agenda and has not embraced calls to impeach the president and members of his cabinet.

House Republicans on Tuesday also reelected Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana as the party’s No. 2 Republican. He was unopposed to become majority leader. They also were making selections for lower-rung party leadership posts.

With the changeover of party control in the House, the next speaker will replace Nancy Pelosi, the only woman to have held the job, which is second in line to the presidency after the vice president. Pelosi, who easily won reelection to her House seat representing San Francisco, has kept her plans for the future under wraps.

In the Senate, GOP leader Mitch McConnell and his allies are pushing back against calls from a group of Republican lawmakers, including Senators Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, to put off a scheduled Wednesday leadership election until after the runoff in Georgia. Although McConnell isn’t at risk of being ousted as GOP leader, he nonetheless may face a challenger when Senate Republicans hold their leadership election Wednesday.

–With assistance from Zach C. Cohen.

(Updates with McCarthy remarks in fourth paragraph)

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