McCarthy: Democrats could pick Speaker if Republicans ‘play games’ on House floor

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned his skeptics in the House Republican Conference against opposing him for Speaker on the House floor.

“We have to speak as one voice. We will only be successful if we work together, or we’ll lose individually. This is very fragile — that we are the only stopgap for this Biden administration,” McCarthy said on Newsmax Monday.

“And if we don’t do this right, the Democrats can take the majority. If we play games on the floor, the Democrats can end up picking who the Speaker is,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy completed the first step toward Speakership when he won the House GOP’s nomination for the position earlier this month against a long-shot challenge from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a former chair of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, in a 188 to 31 vote, with five others voting for neither of the two.

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But in order to secure the Speakership, he needs to win majority support on the House floor on the first day of the new Congress on Jan. 3. And with Republicans winning a narrower-than-anticipated majority of around 222 seats to around 213 for Democrats, McCarthy can only afford to lose a handful of Republican votes on the floor.

All Democrats are expected to vote for their party’s Speaker nominee, expected to be finalized as Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) this week. At least five House Republicans from the hard-line conservative wing have publicly said or strongly indicated that they will not vote for McCarthy on the floor, throwing his Speakership bid into dangerous territory.

Those members are Reps. Bob Good (Va.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Biggs.

Several others have expressed skepticism of McCarthy but have not said how they will vote on Jan. 3. Biggs said on the “Conservative Review” podcast on Monday that he thinks the number of “hard noes” on McCarthy is around 20 GOP members, which would sink McCarthy’s bid.

McCarthy’s warning about Democrats picking the Speaker echoes repeated warnings from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has broken with her Freedom Caucus colleagues to strongly support McCarthy. A handful of moderates, she says, could join with Democrats to elect a more moderate Speaker.

McCarthy also alluded to other factions of the party and the possibility of moderates breaking away.

“You have to listen to everybody in the conference, because five people on any side can stop anything when you’re in the majority,” McCarthy said on Newsmax.

Those opposed to McCarthy cite various issues, such as his not committing to pass a budget that slashes spending, his resistance to Freedom Caucus rules change requests that would give more power to rank-and-file members and his unwillingness to commit to impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

McCarthy did last week call on Mayorkas to resign or face a House GOP investigation and potential impeachment inquiry.

Allies of McCarthy also point out that there is no viable GOP alternative to him for Speaker, though Biggs has said he expects a more consensus candidate to emerge before Jan. 3.

“I think at the end of the day, calmer heads will prevail. We’ll work together to find the best path forward,” McCarthy said.

Though a majority of the whole House is 218 members, it is possible for a Speaker to be elected with fewer than that number since a Speaker needs majority support from only those voting for a specific candidate by surname.

Absences, “present” votes and vacancies lower that threshold. Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin (Va.) died on Monday, and his seat is likely to be vacant on Jan. 3.

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