McCarthy makes case for House speaker, but right flank balks

Nov 14, 2022, 5:39 PM | Updated: Nov 15, 2022, 11:13 am
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is hoping to be the next speaker of the House, ...

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is hoping to be the next speaker of the House, arrives to meet behind closed doors as Republicans hold their leadership candidate forum, where everyone running for a post, including McCarthy, will make their case to the membership, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With Republicans close to gaining control of the House, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy maneuvered Monday to lock up support to become the next House speaker, pushing past the objections of his right flank and embarking on a bruising path to seize the gavel from Nancy Pelosi if Democrats lose the majority.

House Republicans met behind closed doors late in the day to hear the pitch from McCarthy, who reaches for the speaker’s gavel at a tumultuous time for the party.

Late Monday, Republicans were just one victory shy of the 218 seats the party needs to secure a majority.

Leaders on Capitol Hill face a backlash over their disappointing performance in the midterm elections, which some blame on Donald Trump, as Republicans reassess their relationship with the former president. Trump is poised to announce his 2024 bid for the White House on Tuesday, the same day as the House GOP leadership elections.

McCarthy exited the two-hour meeting appearing confident ahead of Tuesday’s internal party vote — a crucial first test.

“The one thing you got to think about is it’s going to be a tight majority so everyone is going to have to work together,” McCarthy said.

“We’ll be successful as a team and we’ll be defeated as an individual if we don’t all work together,” he said.

The GOP leadership elections arrive at an inflection point for the Republican Party after the dismal election. McCarthy had promised big wins, with the most diverse class ever of Republican recruits, but voters rejected many of more extreme candidates and election deniers beholden to Trump. Instead, Republicans limped toward the 218 seats needed for a majority.

It’s not just McCarthy’s leadership that is in question ahead of Tuesday’s party votes — his entire team, including Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., the campaign chairman, faces blowback from the party’s losses. Across the Capitol, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is also encountering opposition from his right flank ahead of his own leadership election Wednesday.

Tuesday’s vote is a first step in McCarthy’s pursuit of the gavel, ahead of the more formal vote when the new Congress convenes in January. The weeks ahead promise to be a grueling period of hardball negotiations between McCarthy and rank-and-file Republicans as he tries to appease their demands and rack up the support he will need in the new year.

“I don’t just automatically assume heir apparent, necessarily,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., who said he is still studying his choice for House speaker, a position second in line to the president.

“We are voting for somebody who is going to be two heartbeats from the presidency,” he said. “To me that automatically makes this one of the most important votes you’ll take as a member of Congress.”

Republicans are torn in the Trump era between those remaining loyal to the former president and those who blame him for the midterm losses and prefer to move on from his “Make America Great Again” brand. Some lawmakers begged off from joining Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida for his announcement Tuesday because of their own work on Capitol Hill.

The former president backs McCarthy for speaker, but the two have had a rocky relationship. Even Trump’s support is no guarantee McCarthy will reach the 218 votes needed to become speaker.

The conservative Freedom Caucus lawmakers who typically align with Trump are demanding concessions from McCarthy before giving him their backing. They have have a long list of asks — from prime positions on House committees to guarantees they can have a role in shaping legislation.

“I’m willing to support anybody that’s willing to change dramatically how things are done here,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the chairman of the Freedom Caucus and a Trump ally, said after meeting privately with McCarthy.

It’s a familiar dynamic for House Republicans, one that befell their most recent Republican speakers — John Boehner and Paul Ryan — who both retired early rather than try to lead a party splintered by its far-right flank.

McCarthy survived those earlier battles between party factions, but the 57-year-old was forced to back out of an earlier bid for the speaker’s job in 2015 when it was clear he did not have support from conservatives.

Asked what will happen if he can’t get to 218 votes from his colleagues, McCarthy touched back to those earlier campaigns for the gavel.

“Ask Paul Ryan. Ask everyone who ran for speaker before. Nobody has had 218,” McCarthy said.

If Republicans succeed in wining majority control of the House once final votes are tallied from the midterm election, it will likely be by the slimmest of margins. That means McCarthy will have little room to maneuver or make deals with the various factions in the GOP because virtually every vote will be needed to move the party’s agenda.

McCarthy huddled privately with several Freedom Caucus members ahead of Monday’s session, and appeared to answer many of their questions later as he spoke at the leadership forum.

While newly elected lawmakers arrived for orientation Monday, there are questions over who, exactly, will be voting Tuesday — with some of the House races still undecided. He needs to clear a simple majority Tuesday, ahead of the formal vote for speaker in January, once the new Congress convenes.

“Leader McCarthy said, ‘We’re going to run the House in the way that you want me to run it,'” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said as he exited the meeting.

Issa said McCarthy drew applause when he suggested he would do as Democrats did in booting certain lawmakers off their committees. Democrats had forced conservative Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., off their committees over their incendiary remarks.

“He will not be afraid to make those decisions, if appropriately brought to him,” Issa said.

With no one rising to challenge McCarthy, veteran lawmakers said if McCarthy is able to clear the majority in Tuesday’s vote, they hope the naysayers fall in line.

“You just would hope that people respect the will of the conference, and I think it’d be pretty overwhelming tomorrow what that will is,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

Of McCarthy, he said: “He’s our best strategist. He’s our best fundraiser. He’s our best candidate recruiter. Isn’t that the guy you want to lead you? I think so.”

___

Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Cong...
Associated Press

Biden makes progress on ‘unity agenda’ outlined in 2022

WASHINGTON (AP) — A year ago, President Joe Biden used his first State of the Union address to push top Democratic priorities that were sure to face a battle in the narrowly divided Congress but he also laid out a four-pronged “unity agenda” that would be an easier sell. Biden’s unity goals would be hard […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

New California oil well ban put on hold for voters to decide

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s new law banning new oil and gas wells near homes, schools and other community sites has been put on hold until after voters decide next year whether to throw it out, officials announced Friday. Opponents of Senate Bill 1137 gathered more than 623,000 valid voter signatures to put a referendum […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks after being sworn in to begin his second term during an ina...
Associated Press

Florida lawmakers to meet next week on Disney, immigration

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers will meet next week to complete a state takeover of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district and debate proposals on immigration and election crimes, as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to leverage national political fissures ahead of an expected White House run. Republican leaders of the Legislature, in coordination with […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Johnny Thai, 11, receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a pediatric vaccine clinic for chil...
Associated Press

California won’t require COVID vaccine to attend schools

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Children in California won’t have to get the coronavirus vaccine to attend schools, state public health officials confirmed Friday, ending one of the last major restrictions of the pandemic in the nation’s most populous state. Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced the policy in 2021, saying it would eventually apply to all […]
23 hours ago
Part of the 988helpline.org website is photographed Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. A cyberattack caused a ne...
Associated Press

Feds say cyberattack caused suicide helpline’s outage

WASHINGTON (AP) — A cyberattack caused a nearly daylong outage of the nation’s new 988 mental health helpline late last year, federal officials told The Associated Press Friday. Lawmakers are now calling for the federal agency that oversees the program to prevent future attacks. “On December 1, the voice calling functionality of the 988 Lifeline […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Workers at the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn., walk by a Nissan Altima sedan on May 15, 2012....
Associated Press

US board clears path for mini-union vote at big Nissan plant

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Fewer than 100 employees out of the thousands who work at Nissan’s auto assembly plant in Tennessee can hold a vote on whether to form a small union, the federal labor board has decided. The ruling Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board overturns a June 2021 decision by one of […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
McCarthy makes case for House speaker, but right flank balks