House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s bid for the speakership became more complicated Tuesday after a hard-right Republican announced his bid for the gavel next month, a move that could spark a messy floor fight and leave their party without a candidate to win the gavel. It took 218 votes to become speaker.
Despite losing the House GOP Conference’s speaker nomination last month, Rep. Andy Biggs, the hard-right Republican from Arizona and one-time leader of the House Freedom Caucus, has announced that he will run for speakership when the full House votes. January 3rd.
“I’m running for Speaker to break the establishment,” Biggs wrote on Twitter. “Kevin McCarthy was created by, elevated by, and maintained by the establishment.”
To become elected speaker, McCarthy can only afford to lose four votes when the House meets next month. Last month, when he defeated Biggs for his party’s nomination, McCarthy lost 31 votes despite winning 188. Now that Biggs’s candidacy is up, opponents of McCarthy can vote for an alternative to lead the new House, which has 222 GOP seats. will have.
If McCarthy can’t win 218 votes on the first ballot, it goes to multiple ballots until someone does — something that hasn’t happened in about a century.
Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, told CNN he won’t speculate on the possibility that he could run as a candidate for speaker on January 3 if McCarthy can’t get 218 votes to win the gavel.
“No, I’m not going to speculate,” Scalise said. “Obviously our focus is on resolving the issue by January 3rd. And there’s been a lot of conversations that everyone has had, especially Kevin, with the members who have raised their concerns.”
“I think this is all theater,” said Texas Representative Tony Gonzales, a McCarthy supporter.
The move comes as speakers’ battles begin to overshadow their majority party plans, even as some at his conference called for McCarthy to take a firmer stance on how he would run the House, including raising of the national debt limit. In a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, House Republicans engaged in a back-and-forth talk about the speaker’s race, with McCarthy and his allies calling for the conference to come together over the speaker’s vote and pushing back his opponents, according to multiple GOP sources.
Even the time limits placed on the microphones became a problem as House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia had an exchange of views on the matter, according to a source in the room.
After the tense back and forth, Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee tried to lighten the moment by joking that the only woman who disrespects him is his wife. He added that conference meetings are a waste of time and nobody learns from them, a sentiment that was met with cheers, sources said.
After the meeting, Rep. Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene – a controversial conservative and close ally of former President Donald Trump – said she spoke out for McCarthy, saying she is “sick and tired” of the so-called “Never Kevin” movement, even though some of them are her friends. She urged them to back off, saying they’d look like crazy if the floor fight slows down their majority.
Still, some Republicans were not convinced.
During the meeting, Rep. South Carolina’s Ralph Norman told the Republicans that he would not receive instructions on how to vote and that he would take the next 28 days to decide for himself, according to GOP sources. Norman confirmed his comments behind closed doors.
“It should be tantalizing,” Norman told CNN. “We’re going to choose the number 1 job in the country.”
Rep. Texas Republican Chip Roy defended hardline Republicans’ attempt to make concessions to McCarthy and potentially send the House speaker’s race into multiple votes on Jan. 3. Roy didn’t say how he would vote.
“It’s nothing new in our history,” Roy said. “This is normal, we are having a debate, just like the Democrats did last time, remember? I mean, there was a huge debate leading up to the Speaker’s race in the last Congress about the Democrats voting against Nancy Pelosi, even though most of them eventually did.