Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader, won the Republican nomination for House Speaker on Tuesday. However, questions remain about his ability to secure the seat on the floor in January.
McCarthy, R. Calif., defeated a challenge from more conservative elements of the House Republican Conference represented in Arizona by Rep. Andy Biggs. Final vote total was 188 to 31.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a hardline group, provided most of Biggs’ support. Biggs was the previous chair of the group that includes more than two dozen House Republicans as members between 2019-2022.
McCarthy was able to gather a wide cross-section of House GOP conference members behind his candidacy. This included conservative hardliners such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Rep., and centrists such as Brian FitzPatrick, Pennsylvania Rep.
However, the sheer number of people against him could lead to trouble.
A senior Republican aide said that losing 31 would put him in serious danger of not being eligible for the January elections. This would force him to either drop out or decide to vote before. “At that point others would jump.”
McCarthy must receive at least 218 votes to become the speaker of January’s House, if all 435 members are present and voting.
The current potential Republican majority is between 218 and 228 seats. This would be enough to control the House. This would allow for a sweep in all the outstanding races, even those where Democrats are preferred, but it still falls short of the 60 seats McCarthy believed could be possible under a GOP wave.
Tuesday also saw other Republican conference elections. Steve Scalise (Republican GOP Whip), was elected by voice vote unopposed to the position of House majority leader in next Congress. To replace Scalise, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer was elected as the whip. After a fierce challenge by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla), Elise Stefanik, the incumbent House Republican Conference Chair was reelected to her post.