Kevin McCarthy was elected by the Republicans as Speaker of the US House of Representatives

Republican representative Kevin McCarthy in Washington, United States, on November 15, 2022 (REUTERS / Leah Millis) (LEAH MILLIS /)

Republican leader Kevin McCarthy passed the important first step to become Speaker of the House of Representatives, by winning the majority support of his colleagues in a secret ballot. He now he faces a weeks work to quash the objections of his right flank before the final vote.

McCarthy has led House Republicans thus far, and with them now on the cusp of majority control, he has a chance to snatch the gavel from Nancy Pelosi if the Democrats are defeated.

“We are going to have the ability to change America,” McCarthy said, optimistic as he entered the private meeting.

He pointed to the endorsement of Republicans on the right flank, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, as part of his “broad support.”

But Republican leaders are facing a fierce backlash on Capitol Hill for their disappointing showing in the midterm elections, when McCarthy’s promises of a GOP sweep that would transform Washington fell flat. Instead, the House of Representatives could have one of the narrowest majorities in the last 90 years, leaving McCarthy exposed to the wannabes. The fallout spills over to other Republican leadership races and to the Senate, where Republican leader Mitch McConnell will face his own colleagues on Wednesday.

The formal vote to elect the speaker of the House of Representatives will take place when the new Congress meets in January. Before then, McCarthy will have to rally the support of 218 lawmakers, potentially only a few votes short.

Former Chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, MP andy biggs of Arizona, announced that he is challenging McCarthy, saying Americans want a “new direction.”

“The promised red wave turned into a loss of the United States Senate, a very slim majority in the House of Representatives, and hefty losses of front-row political candidates,” Biggs said in a statement. “McCarthy does not have the votes to become the next speaker of the House and his presidency should not be a foregone conclusion.”

File photo of Andy Biggs (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
Archive photo of Andy Biggs (REUTERS/Brian Snyder) (BRIAN SNYDER/)

Many in the Republican Party are blaming their losses on Donald Trump, the former president who endorsed hundreds of candidates, many of them far-right contenders rejected by voters. The leadership elections behind closed doors are unfolding on Capitol Hill hours before Trump is expected to announce his 2024 White House bid from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Tuesday night.

It is not just McCarthy’s leadership that is in question, but his entire team. This includes Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minnesota, the campaign chairman who would traditionally be rewarded with a leadership position but finds himself in a three-way race for the GOP whip that could be forced into a runoff.

And one of Trump’s main allies in the House of Representatives, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York – the third Republican in the House of Representatives and the first lawmaker to endorse Trump in a 2024 bid – is working to fend off his rival, Rep. Byron Donaldsan African-American Republican from Florida who many lawmakers see as a potential new party leader.

Donalds, who describes himself as “a pro-Trump, freedom-loving, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment black man,” said after a closed-door forum late Monday that he has enough support for the race with Stefanik to be close.

Tuesday’s vote will provide a snapshot of the grind ahead for McCarthy, as the 57-year-old Californian reaches for the gavel when the new Congress convenes in January.

Trump endorses McCarthy for Speaker of the House, but the two have had a rocky relationshipand even Trump’s support does not guarantee that McCarthy will reach the necessary 218 votes, especially if the Republicans win the House with a slim majority of a few seats that would leave him no room for his detractors.

At least one Trump ally, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, has said he will vote no on McCarthy.

File photo of a session of the US House of Representatives (EFE / EPA / Amanda Voisard)
File photo of a session of the US House of Representatives (EFE / EPA / Amanda Voisard) (Amanda Voisard / POOL /)

It’s a familiar dynamic for House Republicans, one that happened to their most recent Republican spokesmen – John Boehner and Paul Ryan – who retired early rather than try to lead a party divided by its far-right flank. .

McCarthy survived those earlier battles between the party factionsbut was forced to withdraw from a bid for the position of Speaker of Parliament in 2015 when it became clear that he did not have the support of the Conservatives.

The weeks ahead promise to be a grueling period of tough negotiations with the Freedom Caucus and grassroots Republicans as McCarthy tries to appease them and garner the support he’ll need in the new year.

In a sign of Republicans’ desperation to bolster their ranks, some made overtures to conservative Democratic Rep. henry cuellarfrom Texas, to switch parties and join the GOP.

“They just told me: ‘name your price,’” Cuellar told reporters. “I am a Democrat.”

Lawmakers in the conservative Freedom Caucus, who often side with Trump, are keen to extract demanding concessions of McCarthy before endorsing him. They have a long list of requests: from top positions on House committees to assurances that they can play a role in shaping legislation.

“I am willing to support anyone who is willing to drastically change how things are done here,” Rep. Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, chair of the Freedom Caucus and a Trump ally, said after meeting privately with McCarthy.

File photo of Kevin McCarthy with Donald Trump in February 2020 (REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque)
Archive photo of Kevin McCarthy with Donald Trump in February 2020 (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque) (KEVIN LAMARQUE/)

But even grassroots lawmakers are weighing their options to speaker of the House, a position that is second in line to the president.

“I don’t automatically assume heir apparent, necessarily,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Arkansas, who said he is still considering his choice for House speaker. “We are voting for someone who is going to be two heartbeats away from the presidency,” he said.

As newly elected lawmakers arrived for orientation Monday, there are questions about who, exactly, will vote on Tuesday – with some of the House races still undecided. All leaders will have to win a simple majority on Tuesday.

By Lisa Mascaro and Farnoush Amiri (AP)

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