House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy moves quickly to lock in votes to claim the President’s gavel as a far-right faction in his conference discusses whether to mount a long-term challenge to complicate his candidacy and forcing concessions in the process, according to multiple GOP sources.
McCarthy spoke privately to his closest advisers and confidants in a Wednesday morning phone call just hours after his party appeared on track to take the House but fell short of their optimistic expectations of a massive GOP landslide. The California Republican has tapped a group of members to be part of his whipping team that will help him secure the 218 votes to win the presidency in January, with GOP lawmakers vowing to ‘work hard to get him elected “, according to a source familiar with the matter. And several allies were seen walking in and out of McCarthy’s office on Wednesday as they began to muddle through and execute their game plan.
“Yes,” McCarthy said confidently Wednesday night as he left the Capitol and was asked if he had the votes to assume the presidency.
But McCarthy’s easy rise to the presidency will be determined in large part by the size of a potential GOP majority. If McCarthy retains a narrow majority, the Pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus could stand in the way of his leadership ambitions. CNN has not yet scheduled a Republican takeover of the chamber.
A source familiar with House Freedom Caucus deliberations told CNN Wednesday morning that there were about two dozen current and incoming members who were prepared to vote against McCarthy if he did not offer them concessions. They are actively discussing setting up a nominal challenger to face McCarthy in next week’s leadership election in a bid to force the GOP leader to give them more influence over the running of the House, a said the source.
McCarthy, who sent a letter to the conference Wednesday afternoon officially declaring his candidacy for president and asking members for their support, spoke with some potential GOP resisters behind closed doors throughout the day, including Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversial conservative who was kicked out of her committee assignments by Democrats — and a number of Republicans — because of her past inflammatory rhetoric. Greene lobbied for a spot on the powerful House Oversight Committee in a GOP majority.
Leaving McCarthy’s office, Greene did not say if she would get what she was looking for.
“No comment,” Greene said when asked if she would support McCarthy for the speaker.
Next week’s leadership election is only the first step in the process. McCarthy would need to win a majority of his conference’s support next week to be named speaker before a January vote, when he would need 218 votes from the full House to win the gavel. The hope, the source said, is that if they back a McCarthy challenger in next week’s election, it would force the California Republican to cut a deal in order to gain their support in the January presidential race. when he couldn’t afford to lose more than a handful of GOP votes in a narrow Republican majority.
The Freedom Caucus’ strategy will become clearer by the end of the week as members weigh their options and new lawmakers travel to Washington for initial meetings. Rep. Matt Gaetz, an outspoken critic of McCarthy who is not a member of the Freedom Caucus but has close ties to the group, also began calling members to talk strategy over the speaker’s race, a source familiar with .
Among their demands: Make it easier for individual members to vote to oust an incumbent speaker, an idea McCarthy has long rejected and which was used by former Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio. The same source said the Freedom Caucus wants greater representation on the panel that selects committee members. They also call on GOP leaders to commit to slowing down the legislative process and giving them more time to consider even uncontroversial bills.
Hardliners may also push for pledges tied to launching impeachment investigations and proceedings against President Joe Biden or members of his cabinet.
Rep. Andy Biggs, a Republican from Arizona and former Freedom Caucus chairman, told a right-wing streaming network that a McCarthy speech shouldn’t be a “find out,” complaining that red wave never materialized and accusing McCarthy of ‘backtracking’. on indictment.
“McCarthy has a lot of tokens to cash in,” a senior GOP source said. “But he’s going to have to cash in on all of them.”
McCarthy could also win over scouts with plum committee assignments, lush office space and other perks. Ahead of Tuesday, there was also talk of adding an additional managerial position to his squad which could also be used to woo critics.
McCarthy’s allies are touting his Tuesday endorsement of former President Donald Trump for the talking hammer, which could help Trump’s staunch supporters at the House GOP conference. Additionally, McCarthy has long sought to develop a good reputation 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 a GOP majority for weeks, according to sources. Republican sources.
Additionally, McCarthy’s allies believe Republicans will credit him with the hundreds of millions of dollars his outside group has raised and spent on key races. McCarthy has been calling victorious GOP candidates and members since Tuesday night.
McCarthy’s speech to members, according to a source familiar, was relatively simple: The GOP has won seats two cycles in a row under his leadership, and he’s about to give the Republicans a majority — which will arm them with subpoena power and allow them to serve as a check on the Biden administration.
While McCarthy’s allies say the GOP leader is willing to listen to members, they think negotiating with members could become a slippery slope — though McCarthy may have no choice, depending on the margins.
McCarthy had hoped to win at least 20 seats to give him cushion both in the race for the speaker and to help push his agenda forward. It’s unclear if they can make it happen because many races stay too early for CNN to call.
Aside from the speaker’s race, Tuesday’s disappointing performance for the GOP has clouded other leadership races.
The House GOP whip race — a position that will only open up if Republicans win a majority — was already competitive, though Rep. Tom Emmer, who chairs the House GOP campaign arm, was seen as a challenge. having the advantage since he was likely to be rewarded if they had a good night.
Now Republicans say it could be harder for Emmer to pull off a victory.
Emmer told reporters on Tuesday that he still plans to run and he doesn’t know if a smaller majority will impact his candidacy. But his speech to members is similar to McCarthy’s, saying, “we delivered.”
Meanwhile, Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, a Trump ally and the head of the conservative Republican study committee, also formally declared his candidacy for whip. And Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia, the current deputy whip, is also up for the job, arguing that his experience on the whip team will be even more valuable in a slimmer majority, where the job of counting votes in chief will be crucial to govern.
This story has been updated with additional developments.