OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
For weeks after Republicans won a small majority in the November midterms, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy campaigned behind the scenes to replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. Having handily won his post to represent the party when Democrats controlled the chamber, on the surface anyway, it seemed like the California Republican should be a shoo-in.
But that wasn’t the case.
Thanks to a handful of Freedom Caucus conservatives, after the 118th Congress was sworn in on Tuesday and Republicans found themselves in the majority for the first time since January 2019, GOP members could not agree on McCarthy as Speaker. In fact, after three votes, the House adjourned without one. That hasn’t happened since the mid-1850s.
At a meeting with Republican members following the first failed vote, McCarthy laid out his case as to why he should be Speaker, essentially explaining that he had earned the position. But that didn’t sit well with some members, including Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who reportedly muttered, “this is bullsh*t” when McCarthy was trying to unify the party.
Fox News notes further:
The comment, which a Boebert spokesperson told Fox News Digital was not yelled or said into a microphone, came Tuesday morning as McCarthy, R-Calif., delivered a speech aimed to unite his party ahead of the leadership vote. McCarthy faces opposition for speaker from Boebert, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and members of the House Freedom Caucus, who claim he has not proven to be worthy to be speaker of the new Republican majority.
Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., said the House Republican meeting was “hostile,” and that McCarthy’s attempt to persuade hard-line Republicans to vote for him fell flat.
“The meeting was very hostile and I don’t think it did anything to persuade those who are inclined to vote against Kevin McCarthy,” Good told Fox News.
— pam key (@pamkeyNEN) January 3, 2023
Good is one of five Republicans who have said they cannot vote for McCarthy; the Californian needs 218 votes to become Speaker. He’s got 85 percent of the caucus, nearly of whom have said they won’t vote for anyone else. And to that point, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), whom the Freedom Caucus members have put forth, has said he doesn’t want the job and is supporting McCarthy, according to reports.
“In his 14 years in Republican Leadership, McCarthy has repeatedly failed to demonstrate any desire to meaningfully change the status quo in Washington,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania said in a statement released Tuesday morning. “Despite our deep reservations, we have continued to work in earnest to find a path forward with McCarthy, knowing that this crucial moment would come.”
The caucus has laid out a plan to divide leadership roles among various GOP factions essentially, former Rep. Trey Gowdy, now a Fox News host, explained Tuesday evening on the program. But, the former South Carolina Republican lawmaker said, McCarthy has wisely rejected it because it would hamper his ability to guide the party’s agenda as he will be forced to negotiate with the Democrat-controlled Senate and Democratic President Joe Biden.
“If Leader McCarthy is willing to publicly state that he accepts the deal to become Speaker, then we are absolutely willing to continue to negotiate in good faith,” Perry told Fox News.
In December, McCarthy announced that he actually had the votes to clinch the speakership, so it’s not clear at this point if he actually had them or if something changed between then and now.
“You can’t beat somebody with nobody, and there’s nobody else running,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson, a South Dakota Republican who supports McCarthy for speaker, according to the Daily Breeze. “Even if there was another announced candidate, that person would not be better positioned to get 218 than Kevin.”
At the time, Good told the outlet that there were talks ongoing behind the scenes to find someone to challenge McCarthy.
“There’s quiet talks going on with other candidates,” he said. “But as you might imagine, those candidates are going to be very hesitant or reluctant to be in any way public.”