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Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Surprising GOP gains in House races Tuesday and the addition of women to their caucus appears to have cleared the field of challengers to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House leadership sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: That clears the path for him to run for speaker of the House in 2022 if Republicans are successful in a push to retake the majority in the midterms.

Driving the news: Three Republican leadership sources said neither House GOP Conference chair Liz Cheney nor Republican whip Steve Scalise will mount a bid against McCarthy, and that all three will seek to hold their current minority roles.

Between the lines: Tuesday's election was a far more successful night for House Republicans than expected; earlier predictions estimated they could lose 10-15 seats. That has emboldened the conference and solidified McCarthy's standing.

  • Ahead of the election, many Republicans believed a loss of seats could prompt the party to reexamine its leadership.
  • A spokesperson for McCarthy declined to comment.

The latest: In a letter to the House GOP conference on Wednesday, McCarthy wrote, "Although securing an outright majority remains our aim, we can take many positives from last night and use the places we came up short as fuel to motivate our efforts over the next two years."

  • "I firmly believe this conference has what it takes to earn back the majority. More than that, I am a fighter and I do not quit on my team or on our shared goals. That is why I am running to serve as Republican Leader and humbly ask for your support."

This story has been updated to include McCarthy's letter to the House Republican conference.

Go deeper

Ronna McDaniel to seek re-election as RNC chair with Trump's support

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ronna McDaniel will seek re-election to a third term as chair of the Republican National Committee, AP reports.

Why it matters: McDaniel has the support of President Trump, who wants to keep her in place in order to maintain tight control over party HQ ahead of his likely 2024 presidential run.

Bipartisan group of lawmakers unveils $908 billion COVID stimulus proposal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in the Capitol in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday proposed a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus package, in one of the few concrete steps toward COVID relief made by Congress in several months.

Why it matters: Recent data shows that the economic recovery is floundering as coronavirus cases surge and hospitals threaten to be overwhelmed heading into what is likely to be a grim winter.

20 mins ago - Health

U.S. exceeds 100,000 COVID-related hospitalizations for the first time

People wait outside the Emergency room of the Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park, California on Dec 1. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

More than 100,200 Americans were hospitalized as of Wednesday due to the coronavirus for the first time since the outbreak began in early 2020, per the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The milestone comes as health officials anticipated cases to surge due to holiday travel and gatherings. The impact of the holiday remains notable, as many states across the country are only reporting partial data.