Twenty-one Republicans have come out against Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) bid to be Speaker, threatening to tank his campaign for the top spot in the chamber.
GOP opposition to McCarthy has only grown since Tuesday. A group of 19 Republicans objected to McCarthy’s bid on the first and second ballot; 20 voted against him on the third; and 21 Republicans opted against supporting the GOP leader on the fourth, fifth and sixth ballots.
No Republican has switched support from another candidate to McCarthy thus far. On Wednesday, 20 voted for Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) while Rep. Victoria Spartz (Ind.) voted “present.”
The list of 20 includes Donalds and Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Michael Cloud (Texas), Andrew Clyde (Ga.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Bob Good (Va.), Andy Harris (Md.), Mary Miller (Ill.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Scott Perry (Pa.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.) and Chip Roy (Texas), and Reps.-elect Josh Brecheen (Okla.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.), Andy Ogles (Tenn.) and Keith Self (Texas).
McCarthy — who was nominated Speaker by House Republicans in November — can only afford to lose four GOP votes, assuming all lawmakers cast a ballot for a candidate. That means he will have to turn a majority of his adversaries into allies if he wants to wield the gavel in the 118th Congress.
Here’s what you should know about McCarthy’s opponents:
Several are supported by the House Freedom Caucus
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) is seen following the sixth ballot for Speaker on the second day of the 118th session of Congress on Wednesday, January 4, 2023.
A number of the Republicans objecting to McCarthy are members of or supported by the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which is led by Perry.
The group doesn’t post members rosters, but Donalds, Biggs, Bishops, Boebert, Clyde, Good, Harris, Miller, Norman, Rosendale and Roy are known to be associated.
The House Freedom Fund — the caucus’ PAC — endorsed Crane and Luna in the 2022 midterm elections.
Not all members of the Freedom Caucus, however, have come out against McCarthy. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) became one of his most vocal supporters in the run-up to the vote and Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), who supported him on all rounds, nominated him on the fifth.
In a speech from the floor, Davidson applauded the GOP leader for negotiating with the Freedom Caucus in making several rules changes after he was nominated Speaker.
“Right now, though we remain divided, a majority, an actual majority of the House Freedom Caucus members do support Kevin McCarthy,” Davidson said, later adding that the California Republican engaged in negotiations with the group and “led the conference to adopt substantive reforms that will make our majority more effective.”
Five are new members
Anna Paulina Luna, who won her Florida House race in the November midterms, has voted against McCarthy for the Speakership. (Associated Press)
Five of the Republicans who have voted against McCarthy were first elected to the House in November.
Brecheen, Crane, Luna, Ogles and Self, who all are poised to be freshmen in the 118th Congress, voted for Republicans other than McCarthy in the first six rounds of voting, staking their opposition to the GOP leader before ever having been sworn into the House.
The lower chamber is unable to swear in members until a Speaker is elected, according to the Congressional Research Service, meaning no individuals — newly elected or incumbents — have taken the oath of office.
In a statement released shortly before voting began on Wednesday, Luna said “I will stand strong until we get a Speaker who will fight for the American people and fix the chaos and corruption in our nation’s Capitol.”
“I will continue to stand firm against all forms of pressure,” she added.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) leaves the House Chamber during the second day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 04, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Getty)
The coalition of 21 includes a handful of Republicans who have been pulled into controversies throughout their congressional tenures.
The House voted to censure Gosar and kick him off committees in November 2021 after the congressman posted an altered anime video on Twitter that depicted himself and other GOP lawmakers attacking President Biden and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
The vote was largely along party lines, with only two Republicans — former Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — supporting the retributions. Shortly after the vote, McCarthy pledged to restore his assignments if the GOP were to regain control of the House.
Boebert has drawn criticism throughout her two years in office on a number of occasions — including when she made Islamophobic comments against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and heckled Biden during his State of the Union address in 2022.
Gaetz has been embroiled in a sex-trafficking investigation led by the Justice Department since late 2020. He is facing allegations of engaging in a relationship with a 17-year-old girl and sex trafficking.
And a number of the other McCarthy objectors were swept into the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation, with the panel revealing that some of them requested pardons for their roles in voting to overturn the election results of certain states on Jan. 6. That list includes Gaetz, Biggs and Perry, according to testimony presented by the committee.
The opponents hail from all across the country
Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) have both been vocal opponents of McCarthy. (Greg Nash)
The Republicans objecting to McCarthy’s Speakership bid hail from all across the country.
Arizona and Texas are each home to three of the detractors, and two others hail from Florida. The rest of the states represented in the coalition are: North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Montana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Indiana.
Voters in eight of those states broke for former President Trump in the 2020 election, while the seven others supported President Biden.
Gaetz paid homage to his home state while staking his opposition to McCarthy on Tuesday.
“Those of us who will not be voting for Kevin McCarthy today take no joy in this discomfort that this moment has brought, but if you want to drain the swamp, you cannot put the biggest alligator in charge of the exercise,” he told reporters shortly before the first ballot began.
“I’m a Florida man and I know of what I speak,” he added.
The Trump factor
Although most of McCarthy’s detractors are fervid supporters of Trump, they have ignored the former president’s calls to back McCarthy. (Associated Press)
Nearly all of the McCarthy opponents have some type of connection to Trump, whether it be an endorsement from the ex-president or previous support for his push to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The ties make for an interesting scene, as Trump calls on all members of the conference to support McCarthy’s quest for the gavel — and many of those most-closely associated with him decline.
Trump endorsed 19 of the 21 Republicans who did not vote for McCarthy — including the five incoming lawmakers. Biggs and Roy were the only two who did not secure support from the former president.
A majority of the Republicans objecting to McCarthy who were in Congress at the time also voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6, 2021. Only Roy and Spartz did not cast such a vote.
Trump reiterated his support for McCarthy’s Speaker bid Wednesday morning, after the GOP leader failed to secure the gavel following three ballots, calling on all Republicans to “VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY.”
But some are urging Trump to reverse his call to action.
“Even having my favorite president call us and tell us we need to knock this off — I think it actually needs to be reversed,” Boebert said in the chamber Wednesday while nominating Donalds for Speaker.
“The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that sir you do not have the votes and it’s time to withdraw,” she added, which led to boos and cheers on the floor.
The opponents have different concerns, wish lists
McCarthy’s opponents have voiced a number of reasons why they are not supporting him, including government spending issues and a general lack of trust. (Getty)
The Republicans objecting to McCarthy’s bid have their own personal reasons for opposing his bid and their own wish lists for what it would take to flip their stances.
Norman has raised concerns with how McCarthy would handle government spending. He called the nation’s fiscal situation “a cancer,” and has made clear that he does not trust McCarthy to rein in deficit spending.
Roy is pushing for the House to adopt rules that would require bills to be voted on individually. Perry, the chair of the Freedom Caucus, said he proposed a deal to McCarthy shortly before the Speaker vote that would require votes on a balanced budget, term limits for members of congress and votes on individual earmarks at a two-thirds threshold, among other items, which he ultimately rejected.
Spartz said she voted present because she wants the conference to meet and have discussions to come to a consensus on a Speaker candidate.
Gaetz pointed to a trust issue.
“It is true that we struggle with trust with Mr. McCarthy,” he said alongside Perry and Boebert on Tuesday. “Because time and again his viewpoints, his positions, they shift like sands underneath you.”
Other lawmakers are vowing to vote against McCarthy no matter what.
“I am not going to support Kevin McCarthy,” Boebert told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Wednesday night.
Mike Lillis contributed.