House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy has won his party’s nomination for speaker over conservative challenger Rep. Andy Biggs by 188-31 votes, according to multiple sources in the room.
It was a secret ballot and McCarthy only needed a simple majority.
While Biggs’ challenge has always been seen as a gamble, the number of Republicans who voted for him shows just how much work McCarthy has to do to win holdouts between now and January, when he needs to win a majority of the entire House.
A week after Election Day, CNN has still not predicted whether the Republicans will win the House. But McCarthy is confident he will win a majority of the House GOP vote on Tuesday to run his conference — and earn the 218 votes needed to hold the gavel in January.
Three House Republicans — Florida’s Kat Cammack, North Dakota’s Kelly Armstrong, and Pennsylvania’s Brian Fitzpatrick — nominated McCarthy as leader, arguing that he has worked harder than anyone else and that party unity is the only path to victory.
Biggs, a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus on Newsmax on Monday nights that he would run against McCarthy while acknowledging that it would be “difficult” to beat someone who has “raised a lot of money” to elect his peers.
“This isn’t just about Kevin,” Biggs said Monday. “I think it’s about institutional direction and trajectory.”
Biggs was nominated by Texas Rep. Chip Roy and South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman, who argued that the House GOP conference should change the way the House works.
Before Biggs’ announcement, McCarthy and House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, who is running for majority leader, tried to defuse tensions within the party on Monday. McCarthy met with several members of the House Freedom Caucus on Monday, and Scalise apologized to Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz for personally criticizing him in the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6, 2021, according to sources in the room.
Idaho GOP Representative Mike Simpson said he will support McCarthy as leader, noting that the GOP has won seats in the House in the last two elections. “He did a good job,” said Simpson.
“There were factors beyond what Kevin McCarthy could deal with that influenced this election,” he added.
Some far-right members seemed reassured.
“If we don’t unite behind Kevin McCarthy, we’re opening the door for the Democrats to recruit some of our Republicans,” said Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Even before Biggs jumped into the ring, House members predicted that McCarthy would face a challenger who would reveal that the California Republican does not currently enjoy enough support to become speaker next year.
During a closed leadership candidate forum on Monday, Virginia Rep. Bob Good, a McCarthy critic, argued that a Super PAC aligned with McCarthy opposed some pro-Trump candidates, and criticized McCarthy for not calling to congratulate him on winning his primary. , said a source in the room. McCarthy replied that he sent $2 million to Good for his race. Good had to be knocked down to cut him off speaking so they could move on to the next question, the source said.
At the private intraparty meeting, McCarthy received a standing ovation from his colleagues. McCarthy vowed to strip the Democrats of power, saying that, if elected, he would kick Minnesota Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and California Representatives Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff from the House. Intelligence Committee, according to a source in the chamber. And he underscored his role in bringing the Republicans back to power.
“They don’t issue hammers in small, medium and large — we have the majority and we have the hammers,” McCarthy said at the meeting.
At one point, Gaetz asked McCarthy if he would try to solicit or accept speaker votes from Democrats. McCarthy said “no” to him.
But McCarthy’s allies have recently tried to get moderate Democratic Rep. convincing Henry Cuellar to switch sides in hopes of filling up their slim margins, according to two sources familiar with the conversation. Cuellar flatly rejected the idea. (McCarthy’s spokesperson said the GOP leader was not involved when these talks took place and said it is in no way part of their strategy for the majority or for his bid as speaker.)
Gaetz, Good and Texas Rep. Chip Roy said Monday McCarthy doesn’t have the votes he needs to become speaker.
“What I can tell you as I stand here is that Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have 218 votes to become speaker,” Gaetz said. “I don’t think he has 200.”
Still, McCarthy and Scalise appear to be in charge of their leadership races, with the No. 3 House GOP position up for grabs, which would be the House majority whip role, if Republicans gained control of the chamber.
At the closed forum, Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was pressured to vote earlier this year in support of a bill to codify same-sex marriage, according to a source in the room. His response: “These divisive social issues should not be taken to the house floor.”
Emmer also defended his party’s lackluster interim performance, claiming they had the majority.
Emmer is running against Representatives Jim Banks of Indiana, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, and Drew Ferguson of Georgia, the Whip Deputy Chief, for the post.
This story and headline were updated on Tuesday with additional developments.