Republicans confirm Kevin McCarthy as their leader after a challenge from right

Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday overcame a challenge from the conservative right to his leadership and secured the top spot among House Republicans.

He only needed a majority of votes to secure his victory. He won 188 to 31. 

The win was the first step on the road for him to become next speaker of the House should Republicans win a majority. He must still win a vote on the House floor when the new Congress reconvenes on January 3. 

And Tuesday’s vote left him 30 votes shy come that election, where he needs 218 votes to become speaker. 

Republicans were one seat away from winning the House on Tuesday afternoon with 12 races still tabulating ballots. The GOP is expected to prevail.

Outgoing Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who sat in the back of the room during the vote, described the atmosphere as ‘very unified,’ though 31 objections to McCarthy’s leadership was more than expected. 

Rep. Andy Biggs challenged McCarthy in a show of force from the conservative wing of the party, which wants a strong voice on committees and political decisions in the coming two years of GOP power.

He acknowledged ahead of the contest that will be tough to beat the California Republican. 

‘It’s going to be tough,’ Biggs, a Republican from Arizona, told Newsmax. ‘Kevin has raised a lot of money and done a lot of things, but this is not just about Kevin. I think it’s about institutional direction and trajectory, and that’s where we’re going to see if we have enough people who agree that we need to change the trajectory of this place and open it up.’

In other leadership races, Steve Scalise was elected to the GOP’s Number Two spot in leadership. In the race to replace Scalise, R-La., as whip, Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., the current National Republican Congressional Campaign (NRCC) chair, beat out Republican Study Committee chair Rep. Jim Banks and Rep. Drew Ferguson.

Tasked with helping Republicans across the board win to get to a majority, Emmer was able to overcome his party’s lackluster showing in the midterm elections to cinch the role.  

McCarthy is now tasked with wrangling dozens of votes back in his favor before the speaker’s race at the start of the new Congress in January.  All Democrats are expected to vote against him for speaker, meaning he can only afford to lose one less than however many the Republicans end up holding the majority by. 

’31 votes against. Big opposition. Kevin McCarthy does not have the votes to be Speaker of the House,’ Rep. Matt Gaetz taunted on Twitter. 

Earlier he said there were at least five members of the GOP caucus who would ‘rather be waterboarded by Liz Cheney’ than vote Kevin McCarthy for speaker. 

In the race for House GOP Conference chair, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., was able to fend off a challenge from Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., 144-74 and hold on to her seat. 

Kevin McCarthy overcame a challenge from the conservative right to his leadership and secured the top spot among House Republicans

Kevin McCarthy overcame a challenge from the conservative right to his leadership and secured the top spot among House Republicans

Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona failed in his bid to topple McCarthy

Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona failed in his bid to topple McCarthy

Republicans were shaken when a red wave failed to appear in last week’s election, a move that endangered the leadership of McCarthy and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.

Democrats retained their control of the Senate. Republicans, however, are one seat away from winning the 218 seats necessary for the majority in the House.

McCarthy worked to shore up his support among House Republicans ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s meeting, particularly among the right flank, which is where Biggs had his strength.

If he prevails as speaker, he will need conservatives in his pocket in order to move any legislation through the House. Republicans are expected to have a narrow majority when they are in power and McCarthy will need every GOP vote. 

Any faction of dissent would have substantial influence to block legislation or otherwise defy the Republican leadership. The right wing appears to be ready to exert their influence – much as liberals did to Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she had a narrow majority.

Conservative Freedom Caucus lawmakers are demanding concessions from McCarthy in return for their support. 

They have have a long list of asks – from prime positions on House committees to guarantees they can have a role in shaping legislation. 

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia threw her support behind McCarthy, who has promised her spots on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees – two powerful panels if Republicans carry through on their threat to investigate President Joe Biden and his administration. 

On Monday, McCarthy met with House GOP lawmakers for two hours in the Capitol to make his pitch. 

‘The one thing you got to think about is it´s going to be a tight majority so everyone is going to have to work together,’ he said afterward.  

‘We’ll be successful as a team and we´ll be defeated as an individual if we don’t all work together,’ he said. 

Some in the House GOP Conference have made it clear McCarthy does not have their support. 

‘There are definitely at least five people, actually a lot more than that, who would rather be waterboarded by Liz Cheney than vote for Kevin McCarthy for Speaker of the House. And I am one of them,’ Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida said on Charlie Kirk show.

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