Dozens of Republicans have indicated they plan to vote for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for speaker no matter how drawn out the voting process becomes, according to letters circulated among Republicans this week.
The letters, first reported by Politico, came from Republican Main Street Caucus leaders and from a group of Republicans who won districts that President Joe Biden carried in 2020.
In the Main Street Caucus’s letter, sent Friday, chair Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and vice chair Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) wrote that their more than 70-member caucus had come to a “strong consensus” that they would vote for McCarthy and that they would not support behind-the-scenes negotiations that “reward chaos” and that do not “expediently” result in McCarthy’s election.
“Members of the Main Street Caucus will hold the line,” Johnson and Bice wrote. “Kevin McCarthy is best prepared to lead the 118th Congress, and we are prepared to vote for him for as long as it takes.”
Additionally, 15 Republican members and incoming members who won in districts Biden won wrote a firm letter to their colleagues on Thursday saying they “are not open to any so-called shadow ‘consensus candidate’” and that they would vote for McCarthy “regardless of how many votes it takes.”
The letter, led by Rep.-elect Mike Lawler (R-NY), also warned that “a protracted floor fight over the Speakership will not only prevent” the House from being able to conduct any business but “will also send the wrong message to the American people at the very moment they entrusted us with governing.”
The vote for speaker must happen at the start of the next Congress on January 3 and before any other business can occur in the House, including voting on House rules, passing legislation, and holding hearings.
Five Republicans, Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Ralph Norman (R-NC), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), and Bob Good (R-VA), have publicly signaled they plan to oppose McCarthy, and another handful have openly expressed hesitation. Those on the fence, mainly from the House Freedom Caucus, have indicated various rule changes, including allowing for a motion to vacate the chair, could affect their decision.
Given Republicans’ narrow majority in the House, McCarthy can only afford a few defections before he risks not winning the needed majority of votes to win.
The 15 Republicans acknowledged they would support rule changes “if, and only if doing so will bring our conference together around Speaker-designate McCarthy.”
Their letter reads, in part:
Over the past several weeks, Speaker-designate McCarthy has embraced several conference and House rules changes to ensure the House can operate in a more open fashion. While we understand these changes are intended to bring more power to each individual Member and create a better legislative process, we remain concerned that some of these changes could unintentionally yield more power to our Democrat colleagues. Nevertheless, we are willing to support these changes if, and only if doing so will bring our conference together around Speaker-designate McCarthy as our nominee for Speaker.
Those who have said they will not vote for McCarthy, broadly because they perceive him to be an untrustworthy establishment figure, have not laid out how another member more conservative than McCarthy could secure the majority of votes needed to win the speakership, meaning Tuesday could be headed for a chaotic stalemate or doomsday scenario should the voting process not run smoothly.