Nov 10, 2022 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy's quest for House speaker risks derailment

A photo of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, through what appears to be a window.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif at his office on Capitol Hill. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

House conservatives are throwing up major roadblocks in House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) path to the speakership.

Why it matters: If House Republicans manage to eke out a majority from the midterm elections, it will likely be a narrow one, meaning just a handful of members could block McCarthy from getting the gavel.

  • McCarthy told CNN on Wednesday that he has the votes to become speaker.
  • But behind the scenes, conservatives are trying to squeeze McCarthy for major procedural concessions, including a rules change that could allow them to perpetually hold his speakership hostage.

The state of play: Republicans will hold their leadership elections next week. McCarthy just needs a majority to vote, by secret ballot, to reelect him as leader.

  • The real challenge is when the whole House votes to elect the speaker. He'll need practically his whole conference to stick together and back him then – and that vote is public.

What they're saying: Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), coming out of a meeting of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus on Thursday, told Axios "no one currently has 218" votes to become speaker in a vote of the full House.

  • Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), who is openly opposing McCarthy, told Axios he's "confirmed with many people that ... there will be a challenge" to McCarthy at next week's GOP leadership elections.
  • "I think he's in deep trouble ... him prevailing on the floor of the House is going to be very difficult," said former Trump official Russ Vought while coming out of the Freedom Caucus meeting.
  • Axios has reached out to McCarthy's office for comment.

What caught our eye: McCarthy on Thursday elevated his most prominent supporter in the Freedom Caucus, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), by appointing him to his 118th Congress transition team.

  • McCarthy also appointed House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is seen as a potential alternative to McCarthy but has said he will stay as his No. 2.
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