Kevin McCarthy moves quickly to secure potential speakers as far-right group weighs elusive challenge | CNN Politics
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is moving quickly to shut down votes to demand a speaker’s hammer, as a hard-right faction at his convention debates whether to launch a long-term challenge to complicate its bid and force concessions in the process, according to several reasons. GOP sources.
McCarthy spoke privately with his closest and closest advisers on a Wednesday morning phone call just hours after his party appeared on track to take over the House, but fell short of their optimistic expectations of a massive landslide from the Republican Party. The California Republican chose a group of members to be on the whip team that would help him get 218 votes to win the speaker’s presidency in January, as Republican lawmakers on the call promised to “work hard to elect him,” according to a source familiar with the matter. Several allies were seen walking in and out of McCarthy’s office on Wednesday as they began researching and implementing their game plan.
But McCarthy’s easy rise to the speaker position will be determined in large part by the size of the Republican Party’s potential majority. If McCarthy maintains a slim majority, the pro-Trump Freedom Bloc may stand in the way of his leadership ambitions. CNN has not yet expected Republicans to take control of the room.
A source familiar with the House Liberty Caucus’ deliberations told CNN Wednesday morning that about two dozen current and incoming lawmakers were willing to vote against McCarthy if he didn’t make concessions to them. The source said they are actively discussing bringing a pro forma challenger to confront McCarthy in next week’s leadership election in an effort to force the GOP leader to give them more leverage in how the House operates.
McCarthy sent a letter to the conference Wednesday afternoon formally announcing his nomination for the speaker position and asking members for their support, according to a transcript obtained by CNN.
The leadership election next week is just the first step in the process. McCarthy will need to win a majority at his convention next week to be nominated for House speaker before the January vote, when he needs 218 votes from the House of Representatives to win the gavel. The hope is that if they back a McCarthy rival in next week’s election, the source said, he will force that California Republican to cut a deal in order to secure their support in the January speaker race when he is unable to. Enduring the loss of more than a handful of Republican Party votes in a narrow Republican majority.
The Freedom Caucus’ strategy will become a sharper focus by the end of the week as members weigh their options and as new lawmakers come to Washington for initial meetings. Rep. Matt Gaetz, an unabashed McCarthy critic who is not a member of Freedom Caucus but closely allied with the group, has also begun inviting members to talk about a strategy on the speaker’s race, according to a familiar source.
Among their demands: to make it easier for members to call for a vote on seated speaker impeachment, an idea McCarthy has long rejected and one that was invoked on former House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican. The same source said that the Freedom Bloc wants more representation in the committee, which makes selections for the assignments of committee members. They are also asking Republican Party leaders to commit to slowing down the legislative process and giving them more time to review even uncontroversial bills.
Hardliners may also push for promises to start investigations and impeach President Joe Biden or members of his cabinet.
Rep. Andy Biggs, an Arizona Republican and former Liberty Party chairperson, told a right-wing Stream Network that a McCarthy spokesman shouldn’t be an “inevitable outcome,” complaining that the red wave never materialized and accusing McCarthy of “undoing” over the impeachment.
“McCarthy has a lot of chips to cash in,” said a senior GOP source. “But he’s going to have to cash in on every single one of them.”
McCarthy could also win detectors with plum commission appointments, lush office space, and other perks. Prior to Tuesday, there was also talk of adding an additional leadership position to his squad, which could also be used to attract critics.
McCarthy’s allies are touting his Tuesday endorsement of former President Donald Trump for a speaker’s hammer, something that could help shore up loyal Trump supporters at the House Republican convention. Moreover, McCarthy has long moved to develop a standing ovation with even the most rebellious forces within the Freedom Caucus and has been in talks with some members of the group about their role in the Republican Party’s majority for weeks, according to Republican sources.
In addition, McCarthy’s allies believed that Republicans would owe him hundreds of millions of dollars that his outside group had raised and spent on major races. McCarthy has been calling winning GOP candidates and members since Tuesday night.
McCarthy’s offer to members, according to a familiar source, has been relatively straightforward: The Republican Party has picked seats for two consecutive terms under his stewardship, and is on the cusp of handing Republicans a majority — which would arm them with a summons of power and allow them to serve as a check on the Biden administration.
While McCarthy’s allies say the GOP leader is willing to hear from members, they believe negotiating with members could become a slippery slope — although McCarthy may have no choice, depending on the margins.
McCarthy was hoping for at least 20 seats to give him a cushion in both the speaker’s race and to help advance his agenda. It’s unclear if they can get there because many of the races are still too early for CNN to call.
Aside from the speaker race, the Republican Party’s disappointing performance on Tuesday has sparked other leadership races.
The race for the House whip — a position that would only open if Republicans won a majority — was already competitive, although Representative Tom Emyr, who heads the Republican campaign arm in the House, was seen as having the advantage because it was likely that be so. Rewarded if they had a strong night.
Now, Republicans say it may be even harder for Emyr to win.
Emmer told reporters on Tuesday that he still planned to run and that he did not know if the small majority would affect his bid. But his presentation to the members is similar to McCarthy’s saying, “He delivered us.”
Meanwhile, Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, Trump ally and chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, has officially announced his candidacy for the whip job. Representative Drew Ferguson of Georgia, the current MP for the whip, is also vying for the position, arguing that his experience on the whip team would be more valuable in the slimmer majority, where the lead vote-counting job would be crucial to the verdict.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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