Kevin McCarthy has a problem. He needs 218 votes to become the next speaker of the House when Republicans retake control of the chamber in January. And right now, he doesn’t have that number.
Enter Kentucky Rep. James Comer, a McCarthy ally.
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend, Comer sought to make the case for McCarthy. Here’s what he said:
“At the end of the day, we need to give Kevin a chance. I think a lot of these members are frustrated because of things that Paul Ryan did or things that John Boehner did. Kevin McCarthy has never had a chance to be speaker.”
Give him a chance! He’s not as bad as the last two Republican speakers!
Which strikes me as a decidedly weak argument to make when we are talking about convincing House Republicans that McCarthy is their best choice. This is the biggest job in the House we are talking about here. It’s hard for me to imagine that the give-him-a-chance argument actually convinces anyone who is on the fence about McCarthy.
And we know that there are already five House Republicans who have said they plan – at least as of today – to vote against McCarthy’s ascension.
1) Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina. Norman told Politico last week that he is a “hard” no on McCarthy and that he wasn’t planning to either skip the speaker vote or vote present, both of which would be less harmful to McCarthy. (McCarthy only needs a simple majority of the members voting for speaker in order to win.)
2) Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona. In an op-ed published earlier this month, Biggs said of McCarthy that “I do not believe he will ever get to 218 votes, and I refuse to assist him in his effort to get those votes.” Biggs lost overwhelmingly to McCarthy in a vote for leader of the Republican conference earlier this month.
3) Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Gaetz said publicly earlier this month that he wouldn’t back McCarthy and he shared the op-ed by Biggs, noting that “we have the votes to force a change.”
4) Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana. In a Twitter thread earlier this month, Rosendale objected to the alleged top-down leadership that McCarthy supports. “Each Member of Congress has earned and deserves equal participation in the legislative process,” wrote Rosendale. “That will only happen if the House returns to the rules that governed this legislative body before Nancy Pelosi took control. Kevin McCarthy isn’t willing to make those changes.” Rosendale also told CNN he would only vote for McCarthy under “extreme circumstances.”
5) Rep. Bob Good of Virginia. Good told Newsmax earlier this month that he would not support McCarthy and that he did not believe the California congressman had the 218 votes he needed to become the next speaker early next year.
Those five put McCarthy in a very precarious position, as Republicans are expected to hold 222 House seats in the next Congress. Losing the support of those five members – assuming that all five actually vote “no” rather than vote “present” or skip the vote altogether – would sink McCarthy.
There is, of course, still time left for McCarthy to change minds. But, if the let’s-give-him-a-chance argument is the best case that McCarthy and his allies can make, then he has a problem.