GOP braces for chaotic loudspeaker fight

Illustration of a microphone hanging under a red spotlight.

Illustration: Aida Amer/Axios

The certainty projected by supporters of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is unraveling as House Republicans brace for the prospect of a right-wing revolt that hampers his bid for president.

Why is this important: McCarthy’s failure on the first ballot could theoretically lead to a weeks or even months stalemate that dominates the House floor and stalls other business.

  • And if he emerges victorious from a brutal process, McCarthy would have the monumental task of leading a narrow majority with bitter divisions.

Driving the news: Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), co-chair of the Main Street Caucus, told Axios they “don’t want to be held hostage” by the Freedom Caucus if McCarthy goes down.

  • Bacon floated in conjunction with Democrats to elect a consensus speaker.
  • “After many, many, many votes, and they don’t want [budge] … We’ll do our best to put something in place and get a nice Republican,” he said.
  • Bacon acknowledged that their choice would have to, controversially, “bring people across the aisle” in order to cobble together a majority.

The other side: Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), one of McCarthy’s enemies in the Freedom Caucus, said his side is also considering alternatives.

  • Good told Axios that there are “individuals who, in private conversations, have acknowledged that once it’s clear…it’s not going to be Kevin McCarthy, they’re interested.”

By the numbers: Only 14 presidential elections were held in multiple rounds, according to the House Historian.

  • Two were in the 18th century, 11 in the 19th century and one in 1923, exactly 100 years ago. The longest, in 1857, resulted in 133 votes over two months.
  • The process, conducted by a roll-call vote, does not incorporate modern technology, which means that new votes would still consume a lot of speaking time.

The situation: With a likely majority of just 10 seats, McCarthy will only be able to afford a handful of GOP defections in the House vote on Jan. 3.

  • Five members of the Freedom Caucus have openly expressed their opposition to McCarthy, with some saying the sentiment is more prevalent in private.
  • Good said he had not heard of any of the dozens of members who voted against McCarthy’s nomination last month saying they would support him on January 3.
  • “I think you’re going to see more people come out publicly in the very near future… [some] privately acknowledge that they won’t vote for him, and that’s growing,” he said.

What we are looking at: McCarthy’s centrist supporters are growing impatient. More than 20 members of the Republican governance group issued a letter urging their anti-McCarthy colleagues to “put the posture aside.”

  • Representative David Joyce (R-Ohio), chairman of the governance group, told Axios in a statement, “This conference cannot handcuff itself to a burning building until we give the hammer at the 118th Congress. .”

  • Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah) told Axios that the “vast majority” of Republicans would rather focus on politics. Instead, “We feel… like we’re spinning our wheels.”

What they say : Republicans are openly expressing their annoyance and apprehension of a possible ground fight, arguing that McCarthy’s nomination should have put the matter to bed.

  • Rep. Richard Hudson (RN.C.), the House GOP’s new campaign leader, said there was “a lot of frustration” among Republicans and that a drawn-out election “gives us a very bad image.” He added: “If we can’t get together… I think we will be punished for it.”
  • “There’s frustration, I think on everyone’s part, that if we don’t find unity, we might as well be in the minority,” Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) said, Claiming that anyone who disagrees “is advancing the cause of the left.”
  • “You have to remember that members bitch about everything,” Rep. Dusty Johnson (RS.D.) said. “But, yes, the frustration is growing.”

Yes, but: Most McCarthy supporters said they still expect him to become a speaker when the dust clears.

  • “There are no other alternatives…Kevin McCarthy is the overwhelming frontrunner,” said Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), adding that an extended election would be a “rocky start” for Republicans in the Bedroom.

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to indicate that Rep. Dusty Johnson is from South Dakota, not North Dakota.

Leave a Comment