Kevin McCarthy is facing a leadership challenge from the Republican Party's right flank, and that could send the House into uncharted territory.
Hardline conservative Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) doubled down on his House speaker challenge to McCarthy, who has been strategizing for the possibility that he won't get the necessary 218 votes in the first round, and he and his team have been shoring up support by offering influential committee assignments and more power in the legislative process, reported CNN.
"I'll get 218," McCarthy said.
Biggs has refused to say whether he would drop his challenge if he failed to get 218 votes in the first round of leadership elections on Jan. 3, but McCarthy's opponents are committed to depriving him of the speakership in a bid to gain more power.
“There are very significant rules, changes being discussed that would open the House up, that would be transformative, that would give us the ability to actually legislate and represent our constituents,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who's a "hard no" for McCarthy, “and whoever is speaker is going to have to agree to those rules, I think, and I don’t think that person will be Kevin McCarthy because Kevin McCarthy won’t have 218 votes.”
“I think the person who is ultimately going to be the speaker isn’t even the candidate yet," he added.
Some of McCarthy's allies have said they would consider working with Democrats to find a moderate Republican who could get the necessary votes if neither he or Biggs can get to 218 in what lawmakers consider a doomsday scenario.
“Our initial plan is vote for Kevin and let him fight this out repeatedly. … But if they think they’re going to use this to infinity to drive him out, well, we’re not going to bend to their will,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE). “If a small group refuses to play ball and be part of the team, then we’ll work across the aisle to find an agreeable Republican, but I hope we don’t get there.”
McCarthy's opponents have been trying to recruit someone besides Biggs, who they don't think can get the votes, but the two most viable alternatives -- minority whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) -- have already said they wouldn't run, but the "Never Kevin" faction says "several" Republicans have expressed interest in running if the minority leader drops out or if he performs weakly on the first ballot.
“How many members vote for someone else will show the strength (of the anti-McCarthy group),” said Rep. Bob Good (R-VA), another "hard no." “I think the second ballot is going to have more candidates. … There are already Republicans letting us know they’d like to be considered.”