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McCarthy’s fiercest critics unmoved while others signal speakership breakthrough possible

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is surrounded by reporters as the House of Representatives adjourns following the sixth failed ballot for Speaker on Capitol Hill on Jan. 4, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Resistance to McCarthy becoming the next Speaker of the House is being led by members of the far right Freedom Caucus who have forced six ballots which is the first time in 100 years that more than one ballot has been needed. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images) Samuel Corum/Sipa USA/Sipa USA via AP

McCarthy’s fiercest critics unmoved while others signal speakership breakthrough possible

Samantha-Jo Roth

January 04, 07:24 PM January 04, 07:28 PM

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) chances of becoming House speaker remain in doubt as his most ardent critics emerged from a meeting Wednesday vowing to oppose his candidacy.

The California Republican faces the daunting task of convincing a majority of the 20 Republicans who have voted against him on repeated ballots to support his candidacy. While some lawmakers have expressed an openness to continue negotiations, others say there’s growing fatigue with McCarthy and it’s time to consider a new candidate.

McCarthy can only lose four Republican votes in the narrowly Republican-controlled lower chamber, making his odds of getting the 218 votes needed to win the gavel slim. So far, at least Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Bob Good (R-VA) have said they are still a “hard no” against McCarthy’s bid. The GOP leader can only afford to lose four Republican votes.

Some members like Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Dan Bishop (R-NC) said Wednesday there is a possibility of a breakthrough and compromise.

House Republicans have been unable to elect a speaker as McCarthy failed to win over a plurality of votes on successive ballots after a group of 20 GOP members opposed him. Following the latest vote, the House adjourned until 8 p.m. Wednesday to give Republicans more time to negotiate.

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“He doesn’t have 218, I don’t think he’s going to get 218. I think we’d be better served if we can start moving off and get to someone who we feel is a more consensus speaker,” Rep. Biggs said following the sixth vote series.

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Biggs said there’s a feeling that overall, House Republicans currently aren’t ready to seriously consider another candidate beyond McCarthy for the job but that it’s only a matter of time until an alternative is put forward.

“There’s this stalemate and if it breaks up a little bit, then we will see whether somebody like a Jordan, somebody like a Donalds, has cachet with the body and can get there. But right now, it’s locked in,” Biggs said.

A number of McCarthy opponents met behind closed doors inside GOP whip-elect Tom Emmer’s (R-MN) office. Longtime Trump supporter Gaetz said there are no additional concessions McCarthy could make to win his support and doesn’t see any other scenario beyond him dropping out of the race for speaker.

“I think we are making a lot of progress. Kevin McCarthy’s number keeps going down, and ours keeps going up,” Gaetz said after briefly huddling in Emmer’s office around 5 p.m. “Twenty people voted against him five times. You know, when people tell you they’re going to vote against you, and then they go before the entire country and do it half a dozen times, you should probably reconsider your candidacy.”

Gaetz wouldn’t elaborate further on a specific Republican who could get all the votes necessary to win. Boebert told reporters she believes there’s “increased opposition coming Kevin’s way” and said nothing has changed.

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) had a bit of a different perspective, saying he is not necessarily a “hard no” on McCarthy, but said he didn’t know what exactly would make him feel comfortable voting for the California Republican.

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“Here’s the difference — I think a lot of people have gotten to the point where they say just nothing. I don’t see it that way. I have never said ‘no way’ because I don’t think in those terms,” Bishop said to a gaggle of reporters after the House adjourned Wednesday. “Currently, nobody’s offered me anything and I don’t want anything. I don’t need anything. One of the problems is that everybody seems to be just desperately in search of a spot, a position on a committee or as a chairman or a subcommittee chairman or in leadership. I do not care about that.”

Bishop said there are “a great deal of possibilities that are really quite extensive” in regard to alternatives to McCarthy as speaker. However, Bishop pushed back on Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the No. 2 in the House GOP leadership, as an option.

“Steve has been in leadership a long time too, but advancing a notch on the pecking order, I don’t think as an answer, is the right way to deliberate. And it’s not likely to produce the best result.”

Bishop suggested an openness to putting forward fellow North Carolinian Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), a former chief deputy whip and ally of McCarthy, as an option to serve as speaker. “I haven’t spoken to him about that. I have talked with Patrick a lot about the problem and how we approach it, and he’s a very creative, a very smart guy who happens to be from my state,” he said.

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