Dec 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Right-wing demand list further complicates McCarthy's speaker bid

Rep. Scott Perry and other Freedom Caucus members at a press conference outside the Capitol.

Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

A group of seven current and incoming right-wing House Republicans who have not yet taken public positions on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) bid for speaker on Thursday released a list of demands for GOP leadership.

Why it matters: The list includes at least one item that's likely to be a red line for the Republican leader, which could throw his already murky path to the speaker’s gavel into even greater doubt with less than a month to go until the election.

Driving the news: The seven Republicans wrote in a letter obtained by Axios that House leadership "has increasingly centralized decision-making power around fewer and fewer individuals," demanding concessions on policy, procedure and right-wing representation.

  • The first demand listed: making it easier to force a vote on motions to vacate the chair – or dislodge the speaker — a disruptive and potentially destabilizing power McCarthy is reluctant to cede.
  • Another is for leadership to refrain from spending to tip the scales in Republican House primaries, another monumental ask for McCarthy.

What caught our eye: The letter is led by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the House Freedom Caucus chair, who has repeatedly demurred on his position on McCarthy's speaker bid since the Californian was nominated last month.

  • He told Axios on Thursday he is "clearly" still undecided, saying of giveaways McCarthy has already made to conservatives on GOP conference rules: "We've got to go much further than rules, but we’re happy to have a conversation.”
  • Another is Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) who has only gone so far as to tell Axios on Friday, "No one in this town has 218 [votes] … Things are going to have to change between now and Jan. 3."
  • Also on the list are two incoming freshmen: Reps-elect Andy Ogles of Tennessee and Eli Crane of Arizona, both prospective Freedom Caucus members.

What they're saying: One of the signers, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), said in a statement McCarthy is "a friend" and that they have a "good working relationship."

  • "While I continue my consideration of who I will vote for, the items presented are simply what I expect and require for anyone seeking the responsibility of serving as Speaker."

By the numbers: McCarthy is on track for a 10-seat majority by the time the new Congress is sworn in, and five House Republicans have publicly said they won’t vote for him, severely imperiling his bid.

  • Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) announced on Wednesday he is challenging McCarthy, though his bid is more a ploy to pull votes from McCarthy than get elected speaker himself.
  • "I don't know anyone that’s predicting anyone that’s predicting Andy Biggs will get 218,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), Biggs' anti-McCarthy co-conspirator. “What Andy is courageously doing is opening that door for us to help us deny Kevin the majority.”
  • Another McCarthy foe, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), asked if he would vote for Biggs, told Axios, "We're all debating. We've got, what, 23 days? … We’ll see."

The other side: The letter comes as some moderate Republicans have complained that McCarthy's detractors lack a coherent end-game.

  • "We're angry, because a small number is going to hold us over the barrel. It hurts the team. It hurts everybody," said Republican Main Street Caucus Chair Don Bacon (R-Neb.).
  • "We didn't even get a good alternative name until yesterday."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with further context.

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