McCarthy faces possible historical challenge in voting for Speaker

McCarthy could replace Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but he goes to the vote on Tuesday with no guarantee of success.

WASHINGTON — The new Congress opens with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy clinging to his political survival, with the potential to become the first speaker candidate in 100 years to fail to garner the initial support of his peers in a crucial hammer vote. .

McCarthy arrived on Capitol Hill promising to fight to the bitter end and avoid a public spectacle that would highlight his party’s divisions and weaken its leadership in the early days of the new Congress.

“We went out to the American public with a commitment to America to fight for them, not for a few members,” McCarthy said as he entered a closed-door caucus of House Republicans lashing out at detractors this morning.

Lawmakers gather at noon in a new era of divided government as Democrats relinquish control of the House of Representatives after losing the midterm elections. While the Senate remains in Democratic hands, House Republicans are hardly keen to counter President Joe Biden’s agenda after two years of the Democratic Party’s monopoly of power in Washington.

But first, Republicans in the House of Representatives must elect a speaker, second in line to the president.

McCarthy could replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but he goes to the vote with no guarantee of success. He faces entrenched detractors in his ranks. Despite attempts to coax, rant and win over – even with the backing of former President Donald Trump – McCarthy has failed.

“This is much more important than the question of one person,” said Doug Hay, a former senior Republican leadership aide. “It’s about whether the Republicans can run the country.”

RELATED: What happens if Kevin McCarthy doesn’t get enough votes to be the speaker?

House Republicans gathered behind closed doors ahead of the rally as newly elected lawmakers arrive on a traditional holiday. Families in tow, members of the new Congress prepare to be sworn into the House and Senate for the start of the biennial legislative session.

A new generation of pro-Trump Republicans are leading the opposition to McCarthy, inspired by the former president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. They don’t see McCarthy as conservative or tough enough to fight the Democrats. It’s reminiscent of the last time Republicans regained a majority in the House of Representatives after the 2010 midterm elections, when the Tea Party class ushered in a new era of hardliners, eventually sending Speaker John Boehner into early retirement.

It usually takes a majority of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, 218 votes, to become Speaker. With only a slim majority of 222 seats, McCarthy can only afford a handful of detractors. The speaker can win with fewer than 218 votes, as Pelosi and Boehner did, if some lawmakers are absent or just voting in presence.

But McCarthy failed to win over a core — and potentially growing — group of right-wing Republicans, led by the conservative Freedom Caucus, despite weeks of closed meetings and promised changes to House rules. Nearly a dozen Republicans have publicly expressed concern about McCarthy.

“Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have 218 votes to be Speaker,” Rep. Scott Perry, Rep., Freedom Council chairman and leader of Trump’s 2020 election-fighting efforts, told The Associated. Press. “Unless things change dramatically, we’ll stay there.”

McCarthy met with Perry late Monday at the office of the Capitol speaker, a Republican aide confirmed on condition of anonymity, to discuss a private session.

But it turned out that there was no solution.

Perry said in a statement early Tuesday morning: “Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to be Speaker of the House. He rejected her.”

Still, the prospect of opponents wreaking havoc on the first day has sparked a counteroffensive from Republicans who are frustrated that detractors are threatening the work of the new Congress.

A sizable but less vocal group of McCarthy supporters launched their own “Only Kevin” campaign to crush opposition and declare their support for him alone.

A viable rival for McCarthy was yet to emerge. Rep. Andy Biggs, an Arizona Republican former leader of the Freedom Caucus, ran against McCarthy as a conservative option but was not expected to win a majority. McCarthy defeated him in the November nomination contest by a score of 188–31.

The second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, would be the obvious next choice, a conservative much loved by his colleagues and considered a hero by some after he survived a brutal mass shooting during a Congressional baseball practice in 2017 year.

Once rivals, McCarthy and Scalise have become a team. Scalise’s office dismissed as “false” Monday another Republican’s suggestion that Scalise called about the speaker’s race.

McCarthy vowed to fight to the end, passing several rounds of painstaking voting, a spectacle not seen in Congress since the contested speaker race in 1923.

“It would be nice if we were ready to speak on January 3rd,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, of Ohio, who is scheduled to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. happens at the first vote, then it just pushes everything back.”

Without the Speaker, the House of Representatives cannot fully form — nominate its committee chairs, participate in meetings, and launch investigations into the Biden administration that are expected to be key on the Republican agenda.

The upheaval in the House of Representatives on the first day of the new session could be in stark contrast to the other side of the Capitol, where Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will officially become the longest-serving House party leader in history.

Despite being in the minority in the Senate, where Democrats have a slim majority (51-49), McConnell could prove to be a viable partner as Biden aims for a bipartisan victory in a new era of divided government. The two men were expected to show up together later in the week in the GOP leader’s home state of Kentucky to celebrate federal investment in infrastructure for the vital bridge connecting Kentucky and Ohio.

McCarthy’s candidacy for speaker should have been almost guaranteed. Affable and approachable, he led his party to a majority by raising millions of dollars for the campaign and traveled the country to recruit many new lawmakers for the election.

However, McCarthy has been here before, abruptly dropping out of the speaker’s race in 2015 when it became clear the Conservatives weren’t backing him to replace Boehner.

This time, one of the main requests from opponents is that McCarthy reinstate a rule that allows any individual legislator to make a “vacation motion” – in short, call a vote to remove the speaker from office.

Pelosi dropped the rule after conservatives used it to threaten Boehner’s resignation, but McCarthy agreed to add it back, but with a higher threshold requiring at least five lawmakers to sign on the proposal.

“I will work with everyone in our party to reach a conservative consensus,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to colleagues over the weekend.

When McCarthy called a New Year’s Eve conference call with Republican lawmakers to unveil a new set of House rules, Perry drafted a new letter of concern, signed by eight other Republicans, that the changes weren’t going far enough.

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