House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy won the GOP nomination to be the next speaker of the House on Tuesday, though a concerted effort by House conservatives to block McCarthy may force him to appeal to Democrats or bow out of the contest.
Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy nominated Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, who chairs the House Freedom Caucus, to challenge McCarthy as head of the House Republican caucus. McCarthy won the contest in a 188-31 vote. McCarthy will need to secure at least 218 votes in January to become the next speaker of the House.
Biggs and Roy orchestrated the challenge as conservatives in the House tried to unseat McCarthy over the direction of the caucus and the results of the 2022 midterm election. The election results in which Republicans appear set to eke out a slim majority of about 220 seats disappointed and frustrated many Republicans. McCarthy has argued that Republicans need unity to solidify their likely small majority.
“It’s going to be a tight majority so everyone is going to have to work together,” McCarthy said late Monday after a meeting with House Republicans. “We’ll be successful as a team and we’ll be defeated as an individual if we don’t all work together.”
Despite losing, a Biggs’ spokesman told The Daily Wire that the vote accomplished what the congressman and other House conservatives wanted. “We have leverage. Today showed McCarthy does not have enough GOP votes to win speaker still. Not even close,” Biggs spokesman Matthew Tragesser said.
Biggs first announced that he would challenge McCarthy for the top spot on Monday during an appearance on Newsmax.
“I think the country wants a different direction from the House of Representatives,” Biggs said. “And it’s a new world, and, yes, I’m going to be nominated [Tuesday] for the position of speaker of the House.”
McCarthy aims to become the next speaker of the House with the expected Republican majority. Biggs’ longshot challenge may spoil that, however, if his supporters refuse to back McCarthy. McCarthy has pledged not to seek additional votes from Democrats.
“Kevin has raised a lot of money and done a lot of things, but this is not just about Kevin,” Biggs continued. “I think it’s about institutional direction and trajectory.”
Roy said in a post on social media Monday: “Americans are demanding transformative change but Congress is too broken to provide that change. Our Speaker, whoever that is … must a) reject the status quo, lead on issues that matter to Americans, & empower House members to fight for those issues. 4) No member currently has 218 & there’ll be an alternative presented. This is bigger than any individual – it’s about the country.”
Allies of McCarthy have reportedly been trying to recruit at least one moderate Democrat, Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, to switch parties. Cuellar’s switch would strengthen Republicans’ likely slim hold on the House. McCarthy has denied that those requests to Cuellar came at McCarthy’s behest.
“Anyone suggesting this is simply exercising in fan fiction,” McCarthy spokesman Mark Bednar said. “Leader McCarthy is going to be elected speaker by the current and newly-elected members of the House Republican Conference. Our efforts are exclusively focused on bringing our conference together and saving the country.”