On Thursday, writing on Twitter former Republican strategist Liam Donovan argued that the members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus refusing to vote for House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy for Speaker aren't doing so out of any abiding belief that McCarthy isn't far right enough, or that there's a specific person they believe could do the job better than he could.
Rather, he argued, these Freedom Caucus members simply want to send a message to the whole caucus that they are in charge and they decide the direction of the party — and making a sacrificial lamb of McCarthy is the simplest way of doing this.
"To the extent the complaints are substantive (they're mostly not), you're not going to find anybody who can win 218 who would be a meaningful upgrade from a HFC standpoint. But you would have a head on a pike as a warning to the next guy, which I suppose is the point," wrote Donovan. "Which is also why anybody outside the nihilist clique — even McCarthy skeptics or folks who would nominally stand to benefit from his ouster — should hope he manages to muscle this out, at least for the time being."
"Nobody wants to try to lead a conference under those circumstances," Donovan added.
House Republicans were expecting a blowout victory in November which would net them dozens of new seats and a comfortable majority. However, they severely underperformed, just barely winning the House with what will likely be just 222 seats, where 218 is the majority threshold. This means McCarthy can only afford four defections in the vote for Speaker.
Some far-right members, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), have said outright they will not vote for McCarthy under any circumstance. McCarthy and GOP leadership are currently trying to cobble together 218 votes with various promises of committee assignments and other benefits to holdout members.