Kevin McCarthy may not have the votes needed to become House speaker.
Republicans won just a narrow majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections despite having predicted a massive "red wave." Now, less than a month later, the incoming GOP majority is already off to a rough start.
According to NBC News projections, Republicans will hold 222 seats in the House starting in January, giving them a slim five-seat majority in the 435-member chamber.
In a Nov. 15 caucus vote, Republicans voted 188-31 to nominate current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be the next speaker of the House.
But to win the post, he will need to receive majority support from all representatives voting in January. McCarthy has been appealing to the far-right faction within his caucus, including by promising political impeachment proceedings against Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and committee posts for Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was stripped of her previous posts in February by the Democratic majority over antisemitic and bigoted comments she'd made.
Even so, several House Republicans have indicated that they won't back McCarthy, deeming him insufficiently combative. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, who previously challenged McCarthy for speaker, told the right-wing Conservative Review podcast on Monday that he believes he is one of 20 "pretty hard nos," which would be "enough, anyways, to prevent Kevin from getting the speakership."
According to the Omaha World-Herald, at least one GOP lawmaker, Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon, has said that if McCarthy does not win the post, he would work with the Democratic minority to elect a moderate House speaker instead.
McCarthy acknowledged this possibility on Monday in an interview with the right-wing media outlet Newsmax.
"If we don't do this right, the Democrats can take the majority. If we play games on the floor, the Democrats can end up picking who the speaker is," McCarthy said.
Regardless of who wins, some say it will be difficult to hold the Republican caucus together. Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a relatively centrist Republican, told Politico on Nov. 16 that with such a narrow majority, members will be able to demand changes to legislation the way conservative West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has done with the chamber's Democratic caucus.
"Everybody's a Joe Manchin," Fitzpatrick said.
Democratic Virginia Rep. Don Beyer told Politico he isn't overly worried about the incoming House Republican majority: "I don't lie awake at night worrying about the bad legislation they are going to pass. Because I don't think they're going to pass it."
Congressional Republicans have also been at odds over whether to delay setting defense policies until next year or to address them during the lame-duck session next month.
McCarthy said on Nov. 15 that he wanted to postpone action on the annual National Defense Authorization Act until the incoming House GOP majority takes control.
"I've watched what the Democrats have done in many of these, especially in the NDAA and the wokeism that they want to bring in there," he said. "I actually believe the NDAA should hold up until the first of the year, and let's get it right."
But Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, and other Senate Republicans largely dismissed McCarthy's position and have continued negotiations on a bipartisan bill for a December vote.
Some House Republicans have indicated they are not interested in passing legislation and will spend the next two years launching at least 40 separate investigations targeting President Joe Biden, his administration, and his family members.
"If the last few weeks are any indication," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Tommy Garcia said in a statement, "Kevin McCarthy's MAGA Majority will be a dangerous, dysfunctional, and disastrous mess that threatens progress and the livelihoods of the American people."
Published with permission from The American Independent Foundation.