Behind-the-scenes hunt builds for McCarthy Speaker alternative

December 13, 2022

Searches for a Speaker alternative to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are slowly building momentum as he faces opposition that threatens to sink his bid, reports The Hill.

On one side, McCarthy’s fiercest detractors are teasing that there are people interested in being a viable GOP consensus substitute for the current minority leader. On the other, members say preliminary conversations are happening among Republicans and Democrats about a possible contingency candidate if McCarthy cannot win the gavel after multiple ballots in the new GOP-majority House next month.

Neither side will name names—fearing that anyone mentioned as a candidate would get intense blowback.

“If somebody were to come out now and we didn’t deliver enough votes to stop McCarthy … there would be a real potential for blowback,” said Representative Andy Biggs (R-Arizona), a former chair of the House Freedom Caucus who has mounted a protest challenge to McCarthy for the House GOP nomination, a bid he is continuing as he searches for an alternative. “They want to be very careful. So I think I think people are interested. They’ve expressed it to some of us .… I think people are being wary.”

Representative Bob Good (R-Virginia) told Fox News that there are a number of candidates who have come to McCarthy’s conservative opponents privately to say they’d like to be considered for Speaker once it is clear he cannot win the votes.

Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) has publicly called for other House Republicans to step up as an alternative.

According to The Hill, Biggs thinks there are still around 20 House Republican members who will be “hard no’s” on McCarthy, which would be enough to deny him a majority of total lawmakers.

Right now, Biggs, Good and Gaetz are part of a group of five GOP members—along with Representatives Matt Rosendale (Montana) and Ralph Norman (South Carolina)—who have said or indicated that they will not vote for McCarthy or “present” on the House floor in the next Congress.

Several others have withheld support for McCarthy without revealing how they would vote. On Thursday, December 8, seven more hardline conservatives signed a letter laying out demands for what they want from a GOP Speaker in terms of House rules and priorities, without naming McCarthy. The California Republican has held several meetings with members of that group on potential rules changes.

“We’re talking about who the other candidates are, who can get into it. Again, we’re not going to get it publicly throw those names out there because then the disinformation campaign is directed towards them, then the retaliatory efforts go towards them,” Good told conservative radio host John Fredricks on Wednesday, December 7.

McCarthy needs a majority of those voting for a Speaker candidate to win the gavel on January 3. With a slim majority of 222 Republicans to 212 Democrats and one vacancy, the five or more members voting against him could potentially keep him from the gavel or force multiple ballots for Speaker—a scenario that hasn’t happened in 100 years.

Research contact: @thehill