Kevin McCarthy’s Hostage Crisis Reaches Its Climax
When a new Congress convenes on Tuesday, lawmakers will do what they have done for centuries: elect a speaker.
But for the first time in exactly 100 years, that election may not be decided on the first ballot—and may not be resolved at the end of the day.
That’s because, just hours before roll call was called, Representative-elect Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) appeared to have no votes. At least not yet. And barring a dramatic resolution in the closing hours, Tuesday’s vote could be most chaotic in the modern history of the room.
Over the months, there have been five tough votes not against him — “Never Kevins” — who pledged to vote as a bloc. But out of those five votes – which is already enough to thwart McCarthy if everyone votes – nine appear to be leaning in McCarthy’s favor.
That group of nine, led by Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX), argued in a letter this weekend that McCarthy had failed to respond to their request for the proposed rule changes.
“To date, there has been a lack of specific commitments for almost every component of our claims,” the group wrote on Sunday.
“Nothing changes when nothing changes, and that has to start from scratch,” one of the signatories, Representative Scott Perry (R-PA), tweeted. “It’s time to change or get out of the way.”
Avoid the more complicated path than Perry suggests. In contrast to the five members who are “Never Kevin”, there are dozens of Republicans who have self-declared “Only Kevin,” which means they will just vote for McCarthy as speaker—or so they say.
Dozens of other Republicans have not taken a public position, and there may be many who say they support McCarthy now but will probably flip once it becomes clear that McCarthy doesn’t have the vote.
But McCarthy’s opposition is certainly a small minority in the GOP’s new 222-seat House majority. They are a small group of hardline conservatives, many with personal blood to choose from and plenty of enemies in their own right. The point is, McCarthy’s opponents don’t have to be massive to be effective.
The current ratio in the House is 222-212, with one vacancy following the death of Democratic Representative Don McEachin following the midterm elections. If everyone votes, McCarthy needs 218 votes — and those 5 tough votes bring his number to 217.
McCarthy could pass that problem if some of the members voted “present”. Just one member present to vote lowers the threshold to 217. But that member must be a Democrat or one of five Republicans who have promised to vote against McCarthy—otherwise, McCarthy would just lower the math from one’s own votes.
A senior GOP aide involved in the battle for speaker rights told The Daily Beast on Tuesday night that Republicans do not expect Democrats to save McCarthy and vote present. But even worse for McCarthy is that, as it stands, it seems likely that more than a dozen Republicans are willing to vote against him. That would make the math extremely difficult, with no clear path to a majority for McCarthy.
One of the few things in McCarthy’s favor, however, is that Republicans opposed to his role as speaker have no real alternative.
When Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) faced off against McCarthy in a speaker ballot in November, McCarthy won 188-31, with five more Republicans voting for the others.
On Tuesday, Republicans opposed to McCarthy could choose to vote for Biggs again, but the hard-line former Freedom Caucus chairman has no real path to a majority of his own.
Instead, a Republican aide involved in the battle for the right to speak told The Daily Beast that Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), the newly inaugurated Freedom Caucus chairman and close ally. of Donald Trump, was the ultimate target for the speaker coup, with several Republicans discussing voting for Biggs in the first vote and voting for Jordan in the second . There was even a belief that a small number of Republicans could turn up to vote for Jordan on a second ballot and create the perception that McCarthy’s vote totals were headed in the wrong direction — another sign for saw McCarthy raising a toast.
Representative Bob Good (R-VA) told Fox News on Monday he believes a “real” conservative will emerge amid the chaos. One of McCarthy’s strongest detractors, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has publicly and repeatedly urged Jordan to run for office. Although Jordan unsuccessfully challenged McCarthy for minority leadership in 2018, he has since become a firm ally of the leadership.
While Jordan may be another long shot in his own right, the point seems to be proving that McCarthy doesn’t have the votes and, at the very least, he will have to make more concessions to his detractors. me.
Meanwhile, McCarthy’s longtime No. 2, Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA), has publicly endorsed the GOP leader. But Scalise is more popular among conservative legislators and loved by the convention’s mainstream hierarchy. If McCarthy falters, Scalise will be watched very closely.
Whether McCarthy succeeds or suffers an unprecedented setback may depend on whether swinging voters in this election—those seeking changes to House rules—are satisfied. with reforms he is willing to accept or not.
Some of their demands are easy, such as ending remote voting, removing metal detectors outside the House of Commons and making sure bills are posted 72 hours before they are put to a vote. . McCarthy agreed on these disagreements. He also promised to elevate hardline conservatives to the most prestigious and powerful committees, such as Appropriation, Justice, and Ways and Means, News Punchbowl report.
But the group is also pushing for some tougher deals for McCarthy, such as giving members the ability to introduce any relevant amendments to appropriations bills, allowing amendments to be voted on. on any bill if certain Republicans co-sponsor and restore a rule that allows members to call for a motion to remove the speaker at any time. McCarthy report told House Republicans this weekend that he agreed to the motion to repeal the request, but only at the five-member threshold.
That particular battle, can determine someone’s time stay speaker, has been one of the more overt wars. But it’s also one of the less consequential disagreements with conservatives.
The Club for Development—a conservative group that is often a thorn in the side of Speaker John Boehner and Speaker Paul Ryan—issued a statement notice whip Monday night urged Republicans to vote against McCarthy.
“More important to the American people than any individual member is the urgent need to restore the House of Representatives to a legislature that gives all members from all communities a voice.” on behalf of the voters, the ability to amend and influence legislation, and a vote on behalf of the People they are elected to represent,” the Club for Development said in a statement. his will.
The group also said the speaker “must also commit” to holding a vote on the Constitutional Amendment on term limits for members of Congress, as well as reverting to a package of rules from eight years ago allowing “open rules”—meaning anyone can get a vote on amendments—to important pieces of legislation.
That particular change can be one of the most difficult; if Republicans already have trouble passing legislation with such a thin and unruly majority, the difficulty will only increase if every member is able to introduce amendments. A common minority tactic is to introduce politically difficult amendments to the law to put members on record, whether it’s abortion, Confederate statues or any other political issue. any other thorns.
Another tactic is to vote on what is known as the “poison pill” amendment, in which the amendment is passed with a majority but then engulfs the entire law.
Leaders over the past few decades—but especially in the past decade—have learned that it’s much easier to manage with a closed process. The public attribution process collapsed under Boehner due to Confederate flag amendments, and Speaker Ryan held only one “open rules” vote during his entire speaker tenure. Pelosi has not held any in the past four years.
What conservatives are really fighting for is a radical change to the way the House does its business—and it’s a change McCarthy has opposed making.
Ultimately, McCarthy’s calculation may be that he would rather be a speaker in near-impossible conditions than not speak and maintain the ability to govern others more effectively.
Even if the conservatives succeed in stopping McCarthy, they still intend to emphasize the same changes to the next person.
All of which means: McCarthy still has a way. He can make the changes conservatives want and hope for the best. Or he can put his foot down and try to get over his detractors.
All of McCarthy’s moves over the past two months—from staging the “Only Kevin” movement to putting on a big show of the repeal of changes—have been aimed at getting conservatives to hard against him.
Now, just hours before the vote, both sides seem willing to criticize each other and let the process go—slowly and painfully, roll-out vote-by-roll.
Despite not having a job, McCarthy remains confident. On Monday, when a reporter asked McCarthy if he had the vote, he said, “I think we’ll have a good day tomorrow.”
That prediction was bolstered by the clearest sign of a speaker’s confidence in waiting: McCarthy had moved into the Speaker’s room on the Capitol.
Whether he will stay or not remains to be seen.
Matt Fuller contributed to this report.