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McCarthy need not be Speaker

Kevin McCarthy becoming Speaker is not a “done deal.” Dissension in the ranks can stop him. As it should, given his recent conduct.

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CNAV’s earlier report that the House Republican Conference agreed to continue with present leadership, turns out to be premature. In fact, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Republican Leader, cannot assure himself of the Speakership next year. A growing rebel faction pledges to vote for anyone else except McCarthy in the House organizational meeting next January. Negotiations promise to be difficult – because these rebels simply do not trust McCarthy any further than they could throw him.

McCarthy jockeys for position

The day after Midterms, The Daily Wire reported dissension in House Republican ranks. McCarthy, of course, announced his intention to run for Speaker. But CNN was already reporting that the House Freedom Caucus were demanding concessions in return for their votes.

One of them, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), seems to have lined up behind McCarthy already. CNN speculated that she had wrung some concession out of him. But Laura Loomer, who lost her primary in Florida’s Eleventh District, speculated that McCarthy offered her a:

  • Carrot, in the form of reassignment to the committees from which the Democrats expelled her last year, and a
  • Stick, in the form of blackmail, on the details of which Loomer would not speculate.

But the rest of the Freedom Caucus were demanding, among other things:

  • Changes in House Rules to permit Members to recall a Speaker more easily than they can today, and
  • Investigations of President Biden and/or certain Cabinet members, with a view to impeachment.

It may or may not be significant that Reps. James Comer (R-Ky.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) did announce plans to investigate Biden and his son, over their business dealings in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

McCarthy has been making blatant “campaign” promises. Among them, he pledged to remove Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from their respective committees.

From after Midterms to today

As the settlement of House races ground on, Fox News reported that certain House Freedom Caucus members would never vote for Kevin McCarthy as Speaker, no matter what.

Kevin McCarthy has done nothing in two years to earn my vote.

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.-5th)

Fox also reminded people that the Freedom Caucus stopped McCarthy from becoming Speaker in 2015.

On November 16, the House Republican Conference held a preliminary leadership “nomination” vote, according to Red Right and True Media. McCarthy got 188 votes to 31 for Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.). Those totals add up to 219 votes – the number that Decision Desk said the Republicans had by then. Which of course means that Republicans will take the House, which puts the Speakership in Republican reach.

However: this vote is not binding in any way, shape or form. To understand why not, turn to this description by the Congressional Institute of the selection process for Speaker. No candidate for the Speakership simply walks into the House chamber carrying proxies. Every member of the House must stand and answer with either the name of his preferred Speaker candidate, or the word “Present.” The House needs a simple majority of Members present and voting to choose a Speaker.

Kevin McCarthy has a problem. Four races remain to decide, and of them, one (Alaska) will certainly go to the Democrat. That leaves three, so Republicans could get 222 seats. But as many as five defections will stop McCarthy from becoming Speaker.

How many defectors might exist?

Just the News reported Tuesday that the Freedom Caucus had four confirmed defectors. They are Representatives Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.). To these, definitely add Bob Good of Virginia, according to Victoria Snitsar Churchill at The Republican Standard. Good made several definite accusations against McCarthy, in an interview with radio host John Fredericks, on the 16th.

Good has both personal and broader ideological grievances against McCarthy. He accused McCarthy of opposing him during his primary campaign, and then “Not Speaking” to him afterward. Worse, he accused McCarthy of spending $50 million to oppose solid conservative candidates in primary season and afterward. McCarthy spent money to support only those Republican candidates who would vote for him as Speaker, Good told Fredericks. (He also accused Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of doing the same on the Senate side.)

If McCarthy is guilty as Good charges, he seems to have put himself in a very bad position. A Red Wave might still have left him the votes to become Speaker, with as many as seventy-three to spare. Instead the Red Wave broke on at least two, maybe three “seawalls.” One of these seawalls definitely comprised Republican complacency and might have included the nefarious gamesmanship of which Good accuses McCarthy and McConnell. This would also be further evidence of the strife between the Republican Establishment and Donald J. Trump’s allies.

What can McCarthy do?

Rep. Good discussed with John Fredericks the options of McCarthy on one hand, and the Freedom Caucus on the other. Good estimated that he had “a dozen or more” defectors lined up to join him. Even the five declared so far would be enough to stop McCarthy.

Would any Democrats vote for McCarthy to stop a “worse” Republican from becoming Speaker? Good denied that flatly. “No Democrat will vote for a Republican as Speaker,” he said, calling such speculation a “scare tactic.”

Laura Loomer dismissed another scare she accused Rep. Greene of spreading: that if McCarthy didn’t win, outgoing Rep. Liz Cheney (RINO-Wyo.) would become Speaker. Greene did, according to Axios, suggest that “moderate Republicans could join forces with Democrats” to elect Cheney. Cheney lost her primary and will not be returning to Congress. True, the Speaker does not have to be a Member. But this scenario requires nearly the entire House Democratic Caucus to vote for Cheney. Some columnists have been making such noise lately. They include Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post,

and John W. Dean at CNN.

But so far, no Member of Congress other than Greene has said one word along that line.

McCarthy suffered a major embarrassment in April after a recording surfaced of him saying he was considering demanding that then-President Trump resign. Liz Cheney might, or might not, be implicated in the leak of that recording, according to Newsweek.

What next?

If Bob Good’s accusations are at all correct, he and his fellow defectors would also be correct in concluding that any other likely Speaker candidate would be better than McCarthy. McCarthy, for his part, either lines up 218 votes, or he’s out. And if he did erect one of the three seawalls against the Red Wave, he has only himself to blame. 222 Republicans leaves him a margin of four, and he can’t spare those four.

And again, it’s all very well for Marjorie Taylor Greene to “warn” (threaten?) of a Liz Cheney Speakership. But Democrats have already lined up behind Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), an inveterate radical, to lead them. They would never vote for Liz Cheney anyway – they hate her even worse than MAGA Republicans do.

So CNAV encourages Reps. Good, Biggs, Gaetz, Rosendale, and Norman, and whomever else will join them, to hang tough. Kevin McCarthy must not become Speaker of the House. Another “senior” Republican in leadership might be tolerable, but not McCarthy. The time for deal-making in (tobacco or marijuana) smoke-filled rooms has passed. The time for serious, principled leadership is at hand.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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