Kevin McCarthy struggles to secure his speakership bid as he votes

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House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his allies spent the past 72 hours on the phones trying to save his life’s goal of becoming House speaker on Tuesday, as Republicans continue to argue over whether he deserves the top spot. .

While a majority of Republicans want McCarthy to be speaker, about 15 have serious doubts about the outcome. McCarthy could lose just four Republicans in Tuesday’s vote, and the razor-thin margin has emboldened staunch conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, who have made specific demands in exchange for their votes.

If McCarthy fails to win Tuesday’s first ballot, it will be a historic loss: No president running for speaker has lost the first round in a century.

“Two trains go 100 miles an hour and everyone wonders: Which one will survive?” A senior GOP aide said he was trying to capture the current mood within the convention.

Five Republicans are either firm in their opposition to McCarthy, or lean toward no. Election. They include Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), who lost to McCarthy in a closed-door vote in November but will challenge him publicly on Tuesday.

McCarthy has made several concessions in an effort to win their votes, including changes to limit his term as speaker, and nine Republicans signed a letter late Sunday calling McCarthy’s proposal “not enough.”

“The times call for a radical departure from the status quo — not a continuation of past, ongoing Republican failures,” Nine wrote of McCarthy.

In response, McCarthy promised in a letter to colleagues that he would “work with everyone in our party to build a conservative consensus,” but stressed the need for the convention to unite around a proposed set of rules that would dictate how they would be governed over the next two years. .

“It is time for our new Republican Party to embrace these bold reforms and move forward together,” McCarthy wrote. “That’s why on Jan. 3 — and every day thereafter — I’m ready to be judged not by my words, but by my actions as Speaker.”

Personally, McCarthy resists, putting in some final tactics He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personal and ongoing debates, as did others in this story, according to several lawmakers, who said he wants to stay on the floor until it takes until he is elected.

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“If they’re playing a game of chicken, to use his words, he’s ripped the steering wheel off the dashboard and put his foot on the floor,” said one Republican lawmaker, explaining McCarthy’s latest quip.

A potential failure by McCarthy to secure the 218 votes needed to become speaker could derail the 16-year congressional career he has built to reach this moment. Although he is known for his ability to trade concessions in the hope of gaining trust, his search will be in vain if he cannot deal with the demands of some who seek to weaken the speaker’s authority.

McCarthy, who took office two years after first being elected in 2007, is John A. Both Boehner (R-Ohio) and Paul D. had a front-row seat to how the Freedom Caucus influenced the speaker’s demise. Ryan (R-Wis.). I saw how both of them tried to keep it aside Even after Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) opposed the group in 2015, McCarthy embraced the Freedom Caucus from the mainstream Republican Party. McCarthy became the top Republican candidate after Boehner.

“[McCarthy is] A very strong relationship guy,” said Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster who is close friends with McCarthy. “Most Congress leaders, as they climb higher, ask for less. Kevin was the opposite and that was the secret of his success.

McCarthy has earned Jordan’s trust and the trust of others in the Freedom Caucus after years of adding their ideological perspectives to broader convention conversations and giving key committee assignments to some lawmakers.

He vowed to continue that commitment, telling colleagues, “I will use my selections on key panels so that they more closely reflect the ideological structure of our conference, and will advocate for the same when I become a member of the Standing Committee.”

More recently, McCarthy has convened key lawmakers from all ideological factions in the convention to discuss how they should act and held several convention-wide debates before voting to incorporate specific provisions.

But promises made on paper or behind closed doors over the past two months have yet to sway a handful of Republicans who oppose him. Today’s Freedom Caucus now includes staunch allies of former President Donald Trump, who see McCarthy as part of an “establishment” problem, while others worry he will continue to act in a way that strengthens the leadership and weakens the membership. But even Trump accepted McCarthy as his choice for speaker.

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The libertarian caucus’ hold on Boehner and Ryan is a key reason why McCarthy and the House GOP’s largest super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, are seen as favoring more moderate candidates in this year’s midterm elections. But that intervention, As first reported by The Washington PostAlready staunch hardliners in the Freedom Caucus only added to the skepticism about McCarthy’s thoroughly conservative credentials.

Regarding the GOP leadership’s proposed rules package, nine conservatives noted in their letter Sunday that it “completely fails to address the problem of leadership working to defeat conservatives in open primaries,” and they are withdrawing their support from McCarthy.

Moderates and establishment leaders banded together to act as McCarthy’s front line against the most fringe in their caucus, incoming Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), and refused to entertain other potential consensus candidates who had pledged to vote. According to many lawmakers, it doesn’t matter how many ballots McCarthy needs.

Over the weekend, McCarthy and his allies tried on the phones to try to get Freedom Caucus members’ demands, concerns about how they were working, to be met through compromise. McCarthy eventually broke his own pledge, saying the “motion to vacate” rule could not be changed, trying to win five, and decided to add to the House rules that any five members must vote to vacate and expel the Speaker.

Still, according to people familiar with the debates, that offer was not enough to satisfy those who doubted that McCarthy was conservative enough to lead them. McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol on Monday that he would not say whether he would consider reducing the motion-to-vacate rule back to one vote, even though his rules won over some Republicans because there are many staunch people in the “no” camp. Cory.

Moderates vowed to vote privately, which voted against any set of rules that would replace the impeachment rule, as previous House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) left allowing any member to vote to recall the speaker and required the presiding officer to do so. So. But in a call Sunday, moderates appeared to cool that demand — only if it ensured McCarthy became speaker.

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“His greatest skill was negotiation, and some used that skill against him, saying he should not negotiate at all. But that’s not how you accomplish things. That’s how you lose. If you refuse to negotiate, that’s how you lose,” Luntz said of McCarthy.

Without the Speaker, basic House functions such as swearing in members and voting on a set of House Rules would be delayed indefinitely. Republicans’ eagerness to begin investigating the Biden administration will also be stymied because McCarthy has held off on announcing committee assignments and some leadership positions until he is elected. Committee staff will not be paid from January 14, a move circulated last week in a bid not to allow the Speaker election to drag on.

Republicans have publicly sought to move past the discontent by announcing the first 11 bills they expect to pass with overwhelming majority support in the first two weeks of January. The priority legislation includes measures to cancel funding set aside to hire 87,000 Internal Revenue Service employees, create a select committee to investigate China and address issues at the US-Mexico border. It does not include plans to reduce inflation, a key GOP campaign pledge.

But the high-stakes tension between the factions, already on display ahead of the Speaker’s vote, has many Republicans doubting whether they can even agree to propose sweeping overhaul reform legislation that integrates on politically toxic issues such as immigration and government reform.

“When the convention is so tight, I think we’re all working together. At the same time, nobody’s going to have more power than anybody else. With a majority like that, more people can decide where the future goes,” McCarthy said in November. “So, We’re either going to lead as a team or we’re going to lose as individuals. At the end of the day, I think we lead as a team.

Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.

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