Jan 2, 2023 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy still short on votes in bid to become speaker

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Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has begged countless lawmakers — and offered extraordinary concessions, including allowing members to easily fire him at any time — to secure the votes for speaker.

Why it matters: Republicans will take control of the House as the 118th Congress opens Tuesday. But McCarthy still doesn't have the votes he needs for speaker, as a handful of GOP lawmakers remain publicly opposed.

  • Top members of his team tell Axios they're optimistic about pulling it out. But they can't point to an exact route — always a bad sign.
  • McCarthy unveiled a package of rules changes on Sunday for the incoming Congress in an attempt to win over Republican holdouts to his bid for speaker of the House, Punchbowl News reported.
  • The rule changes amount to concessions to conservatives, who previously demanded similar changes.

The changes include what was considered a "red line" for McCarthy — making it easier to force a vote on removing the speaker.

  • McCarthy's proposed rules hand a knife to skeptics, allowing any five GOP to call for a vote to boot him at any time. In a letter of response, several hardliners still refused to commit to backing him.
  • "He's empowering every part of the conference," a top GOP aide told Axios.

The rules package also proposes ending the use of proxy voting and remote committee proceedings implemented because of the pandemic — as well as fines for not complying with mask mandates or security screenings before entering the House floor.

  • It also proposes a vote to form a select subcommittee on "Weaponization of the Federal Government" under the House Judiciary Committee, as well as a select committee on "Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party."

Between the lines: McCarthy has yielded to the right on ask after ask for weeks — ever since it was clear he was in trouble because the midterms gave him such a narrow majority.

  • Yet even close allies privately say it's "hard to see a path" to the 218 votes McCarthy needs when the new Congress opens tomorrow, Punchbowl News reports.

By the numbers: If the full House is voting, he can only lose four.

  • Five conservatives have declared themselves "no" votes, and there's another five to 10 McCarthy has to worry about.
  • The conservatives — Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Matt Rosendale (R-Mt.) and Bob Good (R-Va.) — have all vowed to vote for speaker as a bloc.
  • But it's not clear that's a blood pact. Some of their individual concerns could be satisfied in the frantic private horse-trading that went on over the Christmas break and continues today.

The bottom line: The top GOP aide said 200+ members are firmly behind McCarthy. Dozens and dozens of them have declared themselves "only Kevin."

  • Jacob Knutson contributed to this story.

Read the proposed rules:

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