The Republican battle over who will inherit Nancy Pelosi’s speaker of the House gavel may be about to get even messier, both behind the scenes and in front of the public, according to Ben Shapiro.
California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who served as House minority leader before the GOP won a majority in November, seemed poised to become the nation’s third-most powerful elected official until a small group of Republicans refused to back him in a series of votes this week. In a Thursday morning tweet thread, Shapiro laid out what is happening behind the scenes, and indicated that there could be division among the 20 Republican holdouts.
“Some, like [Texas Rep.] Chip Roy, have an actual strategy to exact concessions, many of which are good and proper,” the Daily Wire co-founder, best-selling author and podcast host wrote. “Others refuse to vote McCarthy no matter what. They have no plan whatsoever.”
There is a major divide among the 20 or so holdouts against McCarthy. Some, like Chip Roy (R-TX), have an actual strategy to exact concessions, many of which are good and proper. Others refuse to vote McCarthy no matter what. They have no plan whatsoever.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 5, 2023
The holdout group met with McCarthy Wednesday afternoon, with McCarthyreportedly agreeing to significant concessions, including allowing a motion from a sole member to force a vote on ousting the speaker, more key committee seats for Freedom Caucus members, a promise to hold votes on term limits and border security, and appropriations changes aimed at preventing another omnibus spending bill. McCarthy also reportedly agreed to keep his super PAC, Congressional Leadership Fund out of Republican primary races for open seats.
For now, McCarthy needs a majority of the 435-member body’s votes to become speaker. The midterm election gave Republicans a 222-213 majority, meaning McCarthy must get all but four Republicans to support him unless he were to somehow gain the votes of Democrats, who are solidly behind New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
So far, the House has held six votes in two days, with the holdout group first backing Steve Scalise of Louisiana and then Jim Jordan of Ohio, both of whom have put their support behind McCarthy. In the Wednesday votes, the Republican holdouts voted for Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, who initially had supported McCarthy, but then voted for himself.
It is the first time in a century that a vote for House speaker has gone to multiple ballots. In the most recent vote, McCarthy had 201 votes, after Indiana Rep. Victoria Spartz voted “present.” Voting was expected to resume Thursday.
Using their leverage to hold McCarthy’s feet to the fire on issues like runaway spending could work for the holdout group, Shapiro said. But that would mean concessions or assurances from McCarthy could ultimately win its backing. The problem, Shapiro said, is that a faction of the holdouts appears to refuse to support McCarthy under any circumstances.
“If you want to drain the swamp, you cannot put the biggest alligator in charge of the exercise,” firebrand Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said on Tuesday.
Even former President Trump’s plea for the party to coalesce around McCarthy has fallen on deaf ears, despite the fact that many if not most of the holdout group are ardent Trump supporters.
Shapiro noted one possible scenario in which GOP holdouts could force a “wild counterplay” that could backfire on them. It would involve lifting the majority requirement for electing a new speaker.
“That counterplay could take the form of Republicans and Democrats voting to appoint the Speaker by plurality rather than majority,” Shapiro wrote. “If that happens, this puts the ‘Never McCarthy’ group in the position of either voting for McCarthy, or letting Hakeem Jeffries become speaker.”