Nov 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy: Democrats could influence House speaker pick if GOP doesn't unite

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) answers questions during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 29, 2022 in Washington, DC.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) during a press conference at the Capitol on July 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned that Democrats could "end up picking" the next House speaker if his GOP colleagues fail to coalesce around him.

Why it matters: Time is ticking before the Jan. 3 House speaker vote — and McCarthy is at risk of falling short of the 218 votes necessary to secure the post amid a far-right revolt.

Between the lines: House Republicans won a narrow majority in the midterm elections, so a small number of members could prevent McCarthy's bid.

  • With a majority of likely only five or six seats, any GOP speaker candidate can only afford to lose a handful of votes if they’re banking on support from their party alone.

What he's saying: "We have to speak as one voice. We will only be successful if we work together, or we'll lose individually," McCarthy said during a Monday interview on conservative outlet NewsMax.

  • "This is very fragile, that we're the only stopgap for this Biden administration, and 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."
  • "I think at the end of the day, calmer heads will prevail," McCarthy said. "We’ll work together to find the best path forward."

What they’re saying: In an interview with Axios, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), a leading centrist who chairs the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said that moderates could play a role if McCarthy falls short.

  • “I think it’s premature to presume that they ultimately won’t figure it out,” he said in an interview last week, “But if they don’t, obviously we stand ready to figure out ways to help govern.”
  • “We’ll see what Republicans do and how we can get to work,” he added.

By the numbers: Anyone who steps up to be speaker will need support from a majority of voting members — not counting those voting present.

  • A McCarthy alternative put up by the Freedom Caucus may struggle to get votes from moderate Republicans.

The big picture: House Republicans earlier this month voted 188-31 by secret ballot to nominate McCarthy for the speaker of the House position.

Go deeper... McCarthy's quest for House speaker risks derailment

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to better reflect Rep. Josh Gottheimer's position on the role of House moderates in the future of the chamber's leadership.

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