House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.’s bid for House speaker has raised tension among Republicans as he tries to win over skeptics on the party's right flank.
McCarthy has to earn 218 votes to become House speaker but given the Republicans’ narrow majority of 222 seats, he can only afford to lose 4 votes. Come Jan. 3, when the leadership vote is held, Democrats could get a say if McCarthy falls short of 218.
Some moderate Republicans in the House have left the door open to working with Democrats to choose a mutually acceptable speaker. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., told NBC News that he was willing to team up with Democrats if McCarthy doesn’t win the speakership.
On Sunday, incoming House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, left it unclear whether Democrats would work with Republicans on electing a speaker.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a possibility,” Jeffries said on ABC’s "This Week." Jeffries said that at the moment, Democrats are preparing for a transition into the House minority. “Let’s see what happens at the other side of the aisle.”
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But Jeffries singled out Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio as a colleague he’s worked well with in the past.
“David Joyce is a colleague of mine, we’ve actually worked together on legislation” said Jeffries. “There is opportunity for common ground.”
Joyce said on ABC’s "This Week" that it would be a “perfect resolution” if Democrats and Republicans could work together to elect a speaker, but expressed confidence that McCarthy will get the 218 votes he needs in January. He also said many Republicans would likely be unwilling to go along with Democratic conditions for backing a mutually agreeable speaker.
“That’d probably be a perfect resolution to find somebody everyone could agree on, but I don’t see it happening,” said Joyce. “I see McCarthy being speaker.”
Greene: 'No way in hell' should GOP work with Democrats to pick speaker
The intra-party tensions have stirred concern among some House Republicans, who see McCarthy as the party’s best candidate for speaker.
“Frankly, Kevin is the only person that I will be voting for speaker,” said New York Rep.-elect Mike Lawler, on CNN’s State of the Union. “And frankly, we’re not going to be held hostage by a handful of members when the overwhelming majority is in full support of Kevin.”
“I know many of my colleagues within the conference feel the same way,” Lawler said.
McCarthy has had to deal with detractors in the right-wing House Freedom Caucus as minority leader. One member of the caucus, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., drew a hard line, saying in a statement he “cannot vote,” for McCarthy.
In November, Biggs unsuccessfully challenged McCarthy for House Republican leader but members voted 188-31 in favor of McCarthy in a secret ballot.
One of the caucus’ most hard right lawmakers, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has thrown her support behind McCarthy, saying the prospect of working with Democrats would be unacceptable.
“I will not do it. There is no way in hell I will stand there and allow that to happen,” Greene said on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: If Kevin McCarthy loses, could Democrats have voice on House speaker?