McCarthy takes the first step towards the house speaker, but grinds on

WASHINGTON – Republican leader Kevin McCarthy takes the first big step to become speaker of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, addressing peers for a secret ballot while overcoming his right flank’s objections and beginning a week-long sprint of the agreement to seek support to back up.

McCarthy has led House Republicans this far, and now with them on the verge of majority controlhe has a chance to take the gavel from Nancy Pelosi if the Democrats are defeated.

But Republican leaders are facing a backlash on Capitol Hill over their disappointing performance in the United States midterm elections, as McCarthy’s promises of a GOP sweep that would convert Washington collapsed. Instead, the House could have one of the narrowest majorities in 90 years, exposing McCarthy to challengers. The fallout is spilling voting in other Republican leadership races and in the Senate, where Republican leader Mitch McConnell will face his own peers on Wednesday.

The formal vote for Speaker of the House will come when the new Congress meets in January. By then, McCarthy must have the support of 218 lawmakers with possibly few votes left.

“There will be a narrow majority, so everyone has to work together,” McCarthy said late Monday as he exited a private leadership forum with lawmakers.

“We will thrive as a team and be beaten as individuals if we don’t all work together,” he said.

As House Republicans choose their leaders, many in the party blame their losses on Donald Trump, the former president who has backed hundreds of candidates, many of whom are far-right candidates, who were rejected by voters. The behind-closed-doors election is taking place on Capitol Hill, hours before Trump is expected to announce his 2024 White House bid from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida later Tuesday night.

It’s not just McCarthy’s leadership that is being questioned, but his entire team. That includes Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., the campaign leader who would traditionally be rewarded with a leadership spot but is in a three-way race for the GOP stick that may be forced into a runoff.

And one of Trump’s best allies in the House, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York — the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives who became the first lawmaker to endorse Trump in a 2024 run — is working to outdo rival Rep. Byron Donalds, a Black Republican Florida, whom many lawmakers see as a potential new party leader.

A self-proclaimed “Trump-supporting, freedom-loving, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment,” Donalds said after a closed forum late Monday he had enough support to make the race with Stefanik a close one.

Tuesday’s vote will provide a snapshot of the upcoming grind for McCarthy when the 57-year-old Californian picks up the gavel when the new Congress meets in January.

Trump supports McCarthy as speaker, but the two have had a rocky relationship, and even Trump’s support is no guarantee McCarthy will garner the requisite 218 votes, especially if Republicans win the House with just a slim majority of a few seats supporting him wouldn’t leave cushion for critics.

At least one Trump Republican ally, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, said he disagrees with McCarthy.

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

McCarthy survived those earlier factional struggles, but was forced to withdraw from a previous bid for the speaker’s job in 2015 when it was clear he had no support from Conservatives.

This time, McCarthy will face a challenge from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose former chairman Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., has announced his bid, signaling the fierce battle ahead.

The coming weeks promise to be a grueling period of tough negotiations with the Freedom Caucus and ordinary Republicans as McCarthy tries to meet their demands and gather the support he will need in the new year.

In a sign of how desperate Republicans are to strengthen their ranks, some made offers to conservative Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas to switch parties and join the GOP.

“They just said, ‘Name your price,'” Cuellar told reporters. “I’m a Democrat.”

The conservative lawmakers of the Freedom Caucus, who normally ally with Trump, are ready to wring demanding concessions from McCarthy before giving him their support. They have a long list of questions – from top positions on House committees to guarantees that they can play a role in shaping legislation.

“I stand ready to support anyone who is willing to dramatically change the way things are done here,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the chair of the Freedom Caucus and an ally of Trump, after a private meeting with McCarthy.

But even ordinary lawmakers value their choice of speaker, a position second only to the president.

“I don’t automatically assume it’s an obvious heir, but necessarily so,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark.

“We’re voting for someone who will be two heartbeats away from the presidency,” he said.

While newly elected lawmakers arrived for guidance on Monday, there are questions about exactly who will vote on Tuesday – with some of the House of Representatives races still undecided. All leaders must clear a simple majority on Tuesday.

A key Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right Georgia Trump ally, has become a silent ally of McCarthy, who has vowed to reinstate her on election committees, and is working behind the scenes to ensure the leadership election progresses .


Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterms at And watch to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. McCarthy takes the first step towards the house speaker, but grinds on

Sarah Y. Kim

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