How is House Speaker elected? McCarthy race risks upending House

McCarthy has signaled he’s willing to participate as long as a floor vote is needed to secure the speaker job he’s wanted for years.

WASHINGTON — In his bid to rise to the position of House speaker, Kevin McCarthy is going straight into history — potentially becoming the first candidate in 100 years to fail to win the job in the first-round vote.

The increasingly realistic prospect of a messy scuffle on the speaker floor on the First Day of the new Congress on January 3 is worrying House Republicans, who are preparing for this scene. They met non-stop in private at the Capitol to try to resolve the impasse.

Holding a Republican majority of 222 seats in the 435-member House of Representatives and facing a handful of defectors, McCarthy is working hard to hit the 218-vote threshold typically needed to become a speaker.

“The fear is that if we stagger out of the gate, voters who sent Republicans to Washington “will revolt,” said Representative Jim Banks, R-Ind., an ally of McCarthy. because of that and they will be disappointed.”

Since the controversial 1923 election, not a single candidate for Speaker of the House has faced public scrutiny for calling a new session of Congress just to make it fall. into political turmoil, ballot after ballot, until a new speaker was chosen. At that point, it ultimately took nine exhausting votes to win.

McCarthy, a Republican from Bakersfield, California who was first elected in 2006 and remains an ally of Donald Trump, has signaled that he is willing to leave as long as a vote is needed. closed to secure the job of speaker he had wanted for many years. The former president endorsed McCarthy and is said to be making calls on McCarthy’s behalf. McCarthy gave no indication that he would step down, as he did in 2015 when it became clear he had no support.

But McCarthy also admits the hold won’t budge. “It’s all in jeopardy,” McCarthy said Friday in an interview with conservative Hugh Hewitt.

The dilemma not only reflects McCarthy’s uncertain stature among his peers, but also the shifting political norms in Congress as party leaders once held power. enormous — the names of Cannon, Rayburn and now Pelosi adorn the meeting rooms and office buildings of the House of Representatives — are seeing it slide. far in the 21st century.

Class-and-file legislators have become political stars in their own right, able to shape their brands on social media and raise money for campaigns themselves. Members of the House of Representatives are less dependent than in the past on party leaders for favors in exchange for support.

The test for McCarthy, if he can win the votes on January 3 or in the days that follow, will be whether he becomes a waning speaker, forced to pay a heavy price for the hammer, or whether a brute force is hidden. the struggle solidifies his new leadership.

“Did he want to be the first speaker candidate in 100 years and basically, you know, give up?” Jeffrey A. Jenkins, professor at the University of Southern California and co-author of “Fighting for the Presidency,” said.

“But if he pulls this rabbit out of his hat, you know, maybe he really has more of a fit.”

Republicans met privately last week in another lengthy session when McCarthy’s detractors, largely some staunch conservatives from the Freedom Caucus, demanded that changes to House rules would do reduce the power of the speaker’s office.

Freedom Caucus members and others want reassurance that they will be able to help draft legislation from scratch and have the opportunity to amend bills during floor debates. They want to enforce the 72-hour rule that requires bills to be presented for review before voting.

Outgoing speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and two former Republican speakers, John Boehner and Paul Ryan, have faced similar challenges, but they can rely on currency in place. their position to offer incentives, negotiate deals and otherwise win opponents to keep them in line – for a while. Boehner and Ryan retire early.

But McCarthy’s opponents’ central claim may go too far: They want to reinstate a House rule that allows any single legislator to file a “leave-seat” petition, essentially for secret ballot to remove speakers.

The early leaders of the Freedom Caucus, under Mark Meadows, a former North Carolina congressman turned Trump’s chief of staff, used the little-used procedure as a threat to Boehner, and later on. is Ryan.

It wasn’t until Pelosi took the hammer a second time, in 2019, that House Democrats voted to remove the rule and require a majority of caucuses to issue a voting challenge. floor for speakers.

Representative Chip Roy, R-Texas, said the 200-year-old rule was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, so it’s the rule he wants to apply.

“We still have a long way to go to fix this institution the way it needs to be fixed,” Roy told reporters on Thursday at the Capitol.

What is unclear to McCarthy is that even if he gives in to the various demands made by conservatives, it will be enough for them to give up their opposition to his leadership.

Some Republicans in the House of Representatives said they did not believe McCarthy would be able to overcome the detractors.

“I don’t believe he’s going to get 218 votes,” Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., said among dissenters. “And so I expect when that recognition kicks in and for the good of the country, for the sake of Congress, he will step down and we can consider other candidates.”

McCarthy’s opposition prompted a counterattack from other House Republican groups, who are increasingly vocal in support of the Republican leader — and more concerned about the consequences if they start Congress. led to an infighting within the party.

Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, who leads the Republican Governing Group, is wearing an “OK” button on his lapel—meaning “Just Kevin,” he explained.

Some have suggested that McCarthy’s opponents could simply vote “present,” lowering the threshold for a majority — a tactic both Pelosi and Boehner used to win by less than 218 votes. elected.

While some have suggested threatening detractors with removal of their committee duties or other punishment, Rep. Dusty Johnson, RS.D., a leader of a caucus Another conservative administrator, said: “Anyone who thinks non-supporters will be bullied into compliance doesn’t understand how this town works.

Retired Congressman Fred Upton, R-Mich., who recalls that then-Republican Chairman Newt Gingrich of Georgia dropped out of the race in 1998 with no votes, warned McCarthy not to back down. step.

“My advice to Kevin is that you have to get to the finish line,” Upton said. “You cannot fold cards. You have to make these people vote – and vote.” How is House Speaker elected? McCarthy race risks upending House

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