Kevin McCarthy Makes Bid for Speaker

After dropping his initial try for speaker eight years ago to avoid a conservative uprising, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has vowed to take the GOP leadership battle to the platform in January.

He wants to come back and win his desired position.

Many Stand Against McCarthy

The present guessing game in Washington is to determine how long disgruntled Republican politicians (such as Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, and the six concession-seeking conservatives grouped with Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania) can hold the gavel out of his grasp.

McCarthy would instantly join the brotherhood of House Speakers who had additional persuading to do in order to safeguard their own challenged candidacies if an unambiguous victory on the first ballot were to be denied him.

Can McCarthy trade his way into the annals of individuals who have turned over doubters after only a few attempts?

Or do his detractors have sufficient influence to put McCarthy and, by implication, the general operation of the House of Representatives, in limbo for more than the two-month delay and 132 rejects that Rep. Nathaniel Banks faced in 1855?

He was able to struggle through on the 133 ballot.

McCarthy’s career direction is unknown as a result of the slim Republican-controlled House in the 118th Congress.

Despite flipping the chamber in November 2022, the small midterm victory gives House Republican leaders a 10-seat lead over House Democrats, but they can only afford to lose a couple of party members’ votes (218 in the 435-seat House).

According to retired Congressional Research Service employee Matt Glassman’s reference sheet on speaker contests, the mathematics is a tad unusual in leadership contests. This is seen as the threshold varies if legislators choose not to vote or do not nominate an alternate candidate.

The anti-McCarthy group, which comprises Gaetz, Biggs, and Reps. Bod Good of Virginia, Matt Rosendale of Montana, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, can therefore attempt to stymie McCarthy.

They can do this by casting a “no” vote or mobilizing around a particular candidate, such as Biggs. However, they could aid McCarthy’s case by casting a “present” vote as that would drop the House total to 430, so McCarthy would only need 215 other votes to win.

Opponents May Not Stop McCarthy

With five strong nos from the Biggs faction, seven holdouts desiring procedural tweaks, and a good group of Republican moderates who see McCarthy as the sole realistic candidate, the prospective speaker’s place in history may yet shatter on January 3 in a number of different ways.

McCarthy could join other ballot-requiring speakers Theodore Sedgwick (1799), Joseph Varnum (1800), and John Taylor (1840) if McCarthy’s opponents put him on the initial vote to make a political declaration, but then allow him off the hook the second attempt around.