Efforts to support House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for Speaker are ramping up as a handful of hardline conservatives threaten to keep him from winning the gavel in a Jan. 3 House floor vote.
More centrist Republicans in the Republican Governance Group are wearing buttons that say “O.K.” — forecasting they will vote for “Only Kevin.”
“We definitely are doubling down on our support for Kevin McCarthy and we’re making it very clear that we’re going to support him through and through no matter how many ballots it takes,” said Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.).
Discussions continue between McCarthy and those pushing for rules changes and concessions, but no member has publicly said they have changed their mind based on the talks.
“My phone has rang more in the last two weeks than in the previous four years, I’ll put it to you that way,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who has not said how he plans to vote on Jan. 3 as he pushes for rules changes that would empower individual members.
The New York Times reported that former President Trump has lobbied members to back McCarthy.
Four GOP members who have indicated they will vote against McCarthy for Speaker – Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), and Matt Rosendale (Mont.) declined to comment on whether Trump has talked to them about supporting McCarthy.
But Gaetz on his podcast on Wednesday centered on a line in the report that said while Trump is not “entirely sold” on McCarthy, the former president sees him as better than the alternative.
“The buried lede here is that President Trump’s lobbying effort, if it still exists, isn’t inspired by any sense that Kevin McCarthy is strong. And that’s probably why President Trump’s lobbying effort has not moved a single vote in favor of Kevin McCarthy. We know that his heart’s not in it,” Gaetz said.
Pro-McCarthy GOP lawmakers are growing more frustrated with the conservative anti-McCarthy votes, spurring talk they might adopt the hardball tactics favored by the “Never Kevin” crowd.
One idea being floated, first reported by CNN, is to kick members those who repeatedly vote against McCarthy on the House floor from their committees.
Another is to have members vote against the House rules package after the Speaker’s vote if it includes changes demanded by the anti-McCarthy hardliners.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) confirmed that the idea of kicking anti-McCarthy lawmakers off committees has been a topic of discussion.
“We should consider what options will work,” he said.
Another GOP lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they’d heard “lots of members” question why those interested in disrupting the House GOP’s agenda “should be allowed” a committee spot.
The member added, however, that kicking anti-McCarthy votes off committees is unlikely to happen give that McCarthy himself criticized Democrats for kicking Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) form their committees over threatening social media posts and interactions. McCarthy has pledged to restore those two Republicans to their committees.
Discord over McCarthy has led to a delay in the House GOP selecting committee chairs in contested races, leaving the conference running behind on preparations for hiring staff and crafting priorities for the new majority.
McCarthy told Politico on Thursday that those slots will not be decided until after the Jan. 3 Speaker’s vote so that freshman members can be there to approve those leading the panels.
“It’s almost like some people didn’t learn anything from the midterms. The right-of-center, left-of-center, those are the folks that won big that night, myself included. And as a constitutional conservative, finding ways to work with the other side. That’s what the American people want,” Mace said.
The House GOP Conference met this week to consider rules changes governing the whole House, addressing several requests from a group of seven current and incoming members – including Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Roy — who have withheld support for McCarthy but not said they would vote against him.
McCarthy told reporters this week that he supports their request to require 72 hours between the time final bill text is released and its passage.
But a request to restore any member’s ability to make a Motion to Vacate the Chair, a procedural move to force a vote on ousting the Speaker, emerged as a flashpoint this week.
The House GOP Conference already adopted an internal rule to allow the motion only if a majority of the conference agreed, and members who want to keep it that way worry that Democrats could use it to thwart the GOP majority.
“No matter how short the leash some Republicans want to put on the Speaker, a single member vote to vacate the chair will be long enough for Democrats to hog-tie our Republican Majority,” Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) said in a tweet.
Those who want the motion to vacate restored argue that the longtime practice is a critical check on leadership’s power. The rarely-used motion was used in 2015 against former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who resigned later that year amid a rebellion from conservatives.
The whole point of the motion to vacate is to pierce that, is to stick a stake in the heart of the cartel in this town that are screwing the American people every day,” Roy said.