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McCarthy warns that Dems could end up picking the next speaker

Kevin McCarthy appears to be so nervous about his leadership bid that he's now warning that Democrats "could end up picking who the speaker is."


As of last week, five House Republicans — Arizona’s Andy Biggs, Florida’s Matt Gaetz, Montana’s Matthew Rosendale, Virginia’s Bob Good and South Carolina’s Ralph Norman — expressed firm, public opposition to Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become the next House speaker. As regular readers might recall, one member of the contingent suggested the actual number is even larger.

“I believe we have at least a dozen or so that are strong, courageous, that will do what needs to be done on the House floor to ensure that we get an improvement in the speaker situation,” Good said on a conservative radio program.

Yesterday, Biggs, another member of the quintet, claimed that McCarthy is facing at least 20 “no” votes from his own conference.

My best guess is that the far-right Arizonan was exaggerating a bit, but if the actual number is even half that, the distance between McCarthy and the speaker’s gavel may be insurmountable.

It was against this backdrop that the incumbent House minority leader made an interesting pitch to a conservative media outlet last night. The Washington Post noted:

With five weeks until the new Congress convenes, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is pressing ahead with his bid for speaker despite being short of the necessary Republican votes, and he is warning that Democrats could be a deciding factor if his GOP colleagues don’t rally around him. “We have to speak with one voice. We will only be successful if we work together,” McCarthy said during an appearance Monday on Newsmax. “If we play games on the floor, the Democrats could end up picking who the speaker is.”

Right off the bat, it’s worth dwelling on the fact that the GOP leader even felt the need to raise this possibility during a nationally televised interview. It was a reminder of just how nervous McCarthy appears to be about the leadership race: If he were confident about how the process is likely to unfold, the Republican probably wouldn’t have issued such a cautionary message.

But just as notable is the fact that McCarthy’s warning was rooted in fact.

As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s successor, whoever that might be, will need to secure a majority on the floor. We don’t yet know the exact size of the next House GOP conference, but we know the party’s margin will be narrow, and if McCarthy can’t win over enough of his intraparty detractors, he won’t have the votes he’ll need.

If the process drags out, and no one has the votes necessary to become speaker, Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon, a relative moderate among House Republicans, recently told NBC News that he’s willing to work with Democrats to elect a more mainstream leader for the chamber.

Whether far-right House members are concerned about such an outcome is anybody’s guess. For now, the GOP’s anti-McCarthy faction isn’t budging, and its members don’t appear to be in the mood to compromise. Watch this space.