House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., appears to be making progress in negotiations over the speakership with his critics in the House Freedom Caucus, but Thursday’s meeting of Congress will be a key test in his race for House speaker.
The House is set to reconvene at noon Thursday, following six voters for speakership this week that failed to deliver McCarthy a majority of the votes. As in previous ballots, the House clerk will take nominations for speaker, then do roll call votes of every member elected to the House, alphabetically by last name.
McCarthy has received 201 votes in the most recent ballots, well shy of the 218 he needs and fewer than the 212 votes Rep.-elect Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader, has received from his party. The House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday settled on nominating Rep.-elect Byron Donalds, R-Fla., who received 20 votes in yesterday’s ballots.
A GOP aide told Fox News McCarthy made progress with some of his critics Wednesday night as he agreed to adding more House Freedom Caucus members to top committees, including the steering committee. The aide added McCarthy may also agree to require only one member to call for a vote to remove the speaker, which he previously set at five.
But McCarthy’s has a long way to go in his supposed progress on negations. He can only afford four Republicans to vote against his bid for speaker, and in the three failed votes Wednesday, 20 Republicans voted against him.
Several conservative Republicans could still be no votes even if McCarthy concedes on many of the House Freedom Caucus’ demands. GOP leadership believes there are still five ‘hard-no’ votes, including Reps.-elect Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.; Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.; Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.; Bob Good R-Va.; and Matt Rosendale, R-Mont. Such a scenario would ensure failed votes continue Thursday.
McCarthy’s chances may be improving with others who voted against him, however. Rep.-elect Chip Roy, R-Texas, a member of the Freedom Caucus and leading critic of McCarthy’s speakership bid, told GOP leaders Wednesday night he could move 10 of these votes back to McCarthy if progress in negotiations continue, CNN reported. Even if Roy is able to accomplish this, more switched votes would be needed for a majority.
Failed negotiations efforts could delay the debates over speaker beyond this week. Rep.-elect Don Bacon, R-Neb., a Freedom Caucus member loyal to McCarthy, said Wednesday night, ‘we’ll go weeks if we need to.’ He said any deal that caters to demands from McCarthy opponents for chair positions on subcommittees would be a mistake.
‘I hope he doesn’t do that,’ Bacon said Wednesday night of reports McCarthy considering using chair positions as leverage in negotiations. ‘I don’t think he will. That’s why he broke off negotiations to begin with last Monday was over that demand.’
Gaetz vowed Wednesday night to extend the speaker election process as long as needed for McCarthy to lose.
‘I’m ready to vote all night, all week, all month — and never for that person,’ Gaetz said.
Gaetz claimed McCarthy apologized to him in private, but refuses to do so publicly, for misrepresenting their conversations about the speakership.
McCarthy did gain a deeply influential supporter Wednesday that could help his speaker bid: Club for Growth. The deep-pocketed nonprofit rescinded its opposition to McCarthy in exchange for a promise from his affiliated PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, to not spend in primaries for safe Republican districts.
Rep.-elect Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., said ‘it’s hard to say a timeline’ for the McCarthy negotiations he is involved in. But his theory is that the race could continue into next week.
‘What I think is going to happen is any new agreements that are reached are going to have to be put into a rules package,’ Fitzpatrick told Punchbowl. ‘Then you have to get the [sign-off] by McCarthy, like the last one was. Then you have to wait 72 hours. So we’re probably looking more likely into the weekend or next week.’