| 26 May 2024, Sunday |

Republican U.S. House to open in uncertainty as McCarthy seeks top job

On Tuesday, top Republican Kevin McCarthy will engage in a bloody political struggle to unseat hardline party members and become the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

As his party gains control of the House and the Senate, he would be able to direct the agenda, restrain Democratic President Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate, and even start investigations that would be harmful to Biden’s family and administration.

After four years as the Republican minority leader, McCarthy now needs at least 218 votes to succeed Democrat Nancy Pelosi as speaker. With 222 seats, the Republicans have a slim nine-seat House majority, but several party members vocally oppose him.

A group of hard-line conservatives opposes McCarthy’s candidacy, concerned that he is less deeply vested in the culture wars and partisan rivalries that have dominated the House and even more so since Donald Trump’s White House years.

They have criticized the California Republican for not taking a more aggressive stance against Democrats, who under Pelosi had been in control, on priorities including government funding, defense and border security.

A protracted speaker election could undermine House Republican hopes of moving forward quickly on legislative priorities involving the economy, U.S. energy independence and border security, and signal a tough year ahead when lawmakers need to agree on critical issues including addressing the nation’s debt ceiling and funding the government.

On Sunday evening, Republican lawmakers who were prepared to vote against McCarthy numbered in the double digits, according to a source familiar with the situation.

“Kevin McCarthy had an opportunity to be speaker of the House, he rejected it,” said Representative Scott Perry, chairman of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus in a Tuesday morning statement.

He said that McCarthy had rejected demands by the group on multiple issues, including term limits for members of Congress and refusing to interfere in party primaries. More broadly, hardliners are concerned that McCarthy is not as combative with Democrats as they would like. They also are seeking deep cuts in domestic spending.

No Democrats are likely to vote for McCarthy, so he does not yet appear to have enough votes to secure the job that would put him second in line for the presidency, behind Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris.

This could set the stage for hours of votes when the 118th Congress begins meeting at midday EST (1700 GMT).

Asked on Monday whether he had the votes, McCarthy, who failed to win the speakership in 2015, told reporters at the Capitol: “I think we’re going to have a good day tomorrow.”

He met on Monday with hardliners and supporters, but there was no immediate sign of a breakthrough. House Republicans are expected to meet behind closed doors on Tuesday morning, ahead of the speaker election.

Representative Don Bacon, a McCarthy supporter, wrote on the online conservative news website Daily Caller that he could reach across the aisle to find Democratic support for an unidentified Republican candidate if hardliners did not to relent.

While Republicans have won back the House, Democrats still hold the White House and Senate. Standoffs are expected over legislation to keep the government open, fund the military and address the U.S. debt ceiling.

McCarthy faces a long-shot rival bid from hardline conservative Representative Andy Biggs. Along with Biggs, Republican Representatives Matt Gaetz, Bob Good, Matt Rosendale and Ralph Norman oppose electing him speaker.

“I won’t be voting for Kevin McCarthy tomorrow. He’s part of the problem. He’s not part of the solution,” Good told Fox News on Monday.

  • Reuters