Oct 9, 2023 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy doesn't rule out House speaker comeback attempt

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday expressed openness to efforts by his allies to try to restore him to the House speakership.

Why it matters: Some GOP lawmakers have voiced concerns that no speaker candidate can get the necessary votes and that the House could be facing a state of extended paralysis as war breaks out in Israel.

  • Some House Republicans have argued that the need to pass aid to Israel adds urgency to selecting a speaker quickly, Axios previously reported.

Driving the news: Asked during a press conference on Monday about potentially becoming speaker again, McCarthy called it a "decision by the conference," adding, "I'll allow the conference to make whatever decision."

  • "Unfortunately the House can do nothing without a speaker," McCarthy said – though he echoed some in his conference who say Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) could be empowered to oversee the passage of legislation.
  • McCarthy declined to make an endorsement between his two would-be successors – House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

The backdrop: McCarthy's centrist allies began pushing for his restoration in the wake of Hamas' onslaught against Israel on Saturday – an effort one moderate Republican with knowledge of the situation called "very real."

  • A group-chat for members of the 70-member Republican Main Street Caucus was "blowing up" on Saturday, with members of the pragmatist group "[d]emanding we re-instate Kevin," one GOP lawmaker told Axios.
  • "A lot of people believe that Kevin McCarthy is the right person to lead us," Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) told reporters.
  • Some have called for it openly. "Most of us in the conference want to move forward with a new speaker – or the old speaker," Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.) told Axios. "I love Kevin. I thought he did an excellent job."

Yes, but: McCarthy would likely face the same problem that got him ejected in the first place – a small but intractable group of GOP hardliners willing to side with Democrats to keep him out of power.

  • McCarthy nodded to that reality on Monday, saying Republicans "have 96% of the conference in one place" but are allowing 4%" to control the outcome.
  • But he also suggested any alternative could face similar issues: "Is our conference just going to select somebody to try to throw them out in another 35 days if eight people don't get 100% of what they want?"

What we're watching: The moderate Republican said any effort to reinstate McCarthy "may have to be" bipartisan.

  • Lawmakers in both parties floated bipartisan deals after McCarthy's ouster.
  • A moderate Democrat told Axios they "remain open to discussions, just like before."
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