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WHIP LIST: McCarthy searches for 218 GOP Speakership votes

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A narrower-than-anticipated House Republican majority and a growing number of House Republicans expressing opposition to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are threatening to derail his bid to be Speaker of the House.

McCarthy won his party’s nomination for Speaker this month but needs to secure a majority of all those casting a vote for a specific candidate in a Jan. 3 House floor vote in order to officially be elected Speaker.

Support from 218 House Republicans, marking a majority of the House, would shore up his position. 

A Speaker can be elected with fewer than 218 votes if there are absences, vacancies or some members vote “present,” but McCarthy does not have much wiggle room. Democrats will have around 213 seats, and all are expected to vote for a Democratic Speaker nominee. Republicans will have around 222 seats. 

McCarthy maintains confidence that he will win the Speakership, but around five House Republicans have already signaled they will not support McCarthy’s Speakership bid on the floor, likely already putting him under 218 and throwing his position into dangerous territory. Several others are withholding support, too, without necessarily saying they will vote against McCarthy on Jan. 3.

Opposition to McCarthy

Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.)

Biggs, a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, mounted a last-minute challenge to McCarthy for the House GOP’s Speakership nomination, when he got 31 votes to McCarthy’s 188, and five others voted for other candidates. After the nomination, Biggs said he will not vote for McCarthy to be Speaker.

“I do not believe he will ever get to 218 votes, and I refuse to assist him in his effort to get those votes,” Biggs tweeted.

He cited McCarthy’s not promising to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as one reason for withholding support. On Tuesday, McCarthy called on Mayorkas to resign, saying House Republicans will investigate and consider opening an impeachment inquiry if he does not.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) 

“Kevin McCarthy will revert to his establishment mean the moment he gets power, and that’s why there are enough of us now, a critical mass, standing as a bulwark against his ascension to the Speakership,” Gaetz said on former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon’s “War Room” show on Tuesday.

Gaetz additionally told reporters on Nov. 15 that he would vote for someone other than McCarthy on the House floor on Jan. 3.

Rep. Bob Good (Va.)

“I will not be supporting him on Jan. 3,” Good said on “John Fredericks Radio Show” on Tuesday. He added that he thinks there are “more than enough” members who are “resolved not to support him” and deny McCarthy the Speakership.

The freshman Virginia congressman, who ousted former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) in a 2020 primary, previously said on the same radio show that he had confronted McCarthy about his tactics during a House GOP conference meeting before the Speaker nomination vote. Good took issue with a McCarthy-aligned PAC spending millions to support certain Republicans in primaries over others, and noted that McCarthy had endorsed Riggleman in his 2020 primary.

“He admitted there at the mic, though, that he spent money in these races based on who would support him for Speaker,” Good said.

Good has also said that he believes there are a “dozen or so” House Republicans who will oppose McCarthy on the House floor.

Rep. Ralph Norman (S.C.)

Norman’s opposition to McCarthy centers around the budget. Norman said he asked McCarthy to adopt a model seven-year budget crafted by the Republican Study Committee, which included $16.6 trillion in cuts over 10 years. 

“Just a solid ‘no’ led me to believe he’s really not serious about it,” Norman said on Bannon’s “War Room” on Tuesday.

The slim House GOP majority, he added, provides an opportunity for hard-line conservative members to pressure McCarthy and push for their priorities.

Norman first revealed his opposition to McCarthy to Just the News, and clarified to Politico that he will vote for someone other than McCarthy to be Speaker – and will not vote “present.”

Rep. Matt Rosendale (Mont.) 

Rosendale, a freshman, has signaled opposition to McCarthy for Speaker.

“He wants to maintain the status quo, which consolidates power into his hands and a small group of individuals he personally selects. We need a leader who can stand up to a Democrat-controlled Senate and President Biden, and unfortunately, that isn’t Kevin McCarthy,” Rosendale said in a tweet after McCarthy was nominated to be Speaker. 

Additional McCarthy skeptics and unknowns

Several other conservative members have indicated that McCarthy has not yet earned their support, or declined to answer questions about McCarthy’s Speakership altogether. 

Rep. Scott Perry (Pa.)

Perry, the current chair of the House Freedom Caucus, has repeatedly said that McCarthy does not have support from 218 members.

“It’s becoming increasingly perilous as we move forward,” Perry said of McCarthy’s position in an interview last week.

Perry has been pushing McCarthy and House GOP leadership to implement rules changes that, on the whole, would give more power to rank-and-file members and lessen that of leaders. But he is not committing to vote against McCarthy at this time. 

“I’m not making my position known,” Perry said in an interview last week. “I do have an open mind, but I also see what’s happening.”

Rep. Chip Roy (Texas)

Roy has similarly said that McCarthy does not have majority support for Speaker, but has not said how he intends to vote on the House floor on Jan. 3.

“Nobody has 218, and someone’s going to have to earn 218,” Roy said last week.

In addition to also pushing for a more open process, Roy has expressed that he does not think House GOP leadership’s commitments to investigate the Biden administration are aggressive enough. He is also a supporter of withholding funding unless the Biden administration ends COVID-19 vaccine mandates for the military.

Rep. Dan Bishop (N.C.)

Bishop said that his vote for Speaker hinges on more than rules changes.

“What it is about more now is whether somebody can seize the initiative to come up with a creative approach to sort of recalibrate how this place works in hopes of moving off the status quo and making it effective for the American people,” Bishop said in a brief interview last week.

“At this moment, I’m open to anyone seizing the initiative in the way that I described,” Bishop said.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (Ga.)

“Well, I will tell you that you’ll know that on January the third,” Clyde said on “John Fredericks Radio Show” on Monday when asked whether he would vote for McCarthy. “We’re still having negotiations.”

Rep. Barry Moore (Ala.)

Moore said in a brief interview last week that he is waiting to see how negotiations on rules changes go, but he was not necessarily a hard “no” on McCarthy.

“We won’t really know until Jan. 3 how things shake out,” he said.

Hard-line members supporting McCarthy

Not all members of the House Freedom Caucus or the more confrontational wing are united in their antagonism of McCarthy. In fact, some are strong supporters.

Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio)

Some conservatives have suggested Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founding Freedom Caucus member who challenged McCarthy for GOP leader in 2018, as an alternative Speaker candidate. But Jordan, who is likely to chair the House Judiciary Committee, has thrown his support behind McCarthy.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.)

The firebrand Georgia congresswoman was once a doubter of McCarthy’s ability to become Speaker, but has now become one of his most vocal supporters for the post. Greene, who has said McCarthy will have to “give me a lot of power” to make the GOP base happy, said she is working to convince her fellow conservative members to vote for McCarthy.

Greene has warned that moderate Republicans could join Democrats and elect a compromise moderate Speaker, but McCarthy skeptics have dismissed that prospect as a red herring.

Rep. Randy Weber (Texas)

Weber, a House Freedom Caucus member, said he is pro-McCarthy for Speaker.

“He’s poured his heart and guts and soul out into building this conference,” Weber told The Hill last week. “I’ve been here 10 years. … I’ve never seen the conference in better shape than it is now.”