McCarthy’s next step on the GOP tightrope: Navigating concessions to conservatives

More than 50 members of the Republican Main Street Partnership met Wednesday morning to discuss their legislative priorities and how they plan to prove their strength as the second-largest Republican group on Capitol Hill, a Republican familiar with the meeting told POLITICO.

Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers who endorsed McCarthy on Tuesday could end up siding with Freedom Caucus members on the rule concessions they seek. Among those requests: tools to undermine the Republican leader, including restoring the speaker’s removal motion known as a “motion to vacate chair”; and dilute the influence of McCarthy and his allies in the distribution of committee appropriations. (The more influence McCarthy loses there, the fewer carrots he has to offer skeptics of him.)

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a longtime McCarthy opponent turned key ally, supported the conservatives’ proposed rule changes, calling them “good, common sense stuff.”

On top of that, some Republicans will enter Wednesday’s debate with a hangover from Tuesday. Four lawmakers, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed frustration after the leadership elections at what they described as a chaotic and poorly explained vote-counting process.

Those private complaints about Republican conference chairwoman Elise Stefanik (NY)’s handling of the vote were exacerbated by the fact that inside the room, she read the votes for McCarthy and Biggs, but did not He mentioned that six members did not choose any of the candidates. However, according to conference staff, house rules state that only formally nominated leadership candidates — in this case, McCarthy and Biggs — have their results publicly announced.

Also, adding to the mess, at least one Republican lawmaker mixed up the planned votes for the first and second ballots in the highly competitive bullwhip race, according to a senior Republican in the room. The lawmaker in question had intended to choose Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) for the first ballot, but instead put Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) instead.

That one vote, had it been cast as intended, could have led to a different outcome in the battle of the whip, as Ferguson finished the first ballot one vote behind Emmer, removing him from the race before the current Committee Chairman National Republican of Congress to prevail in the vote. second ballot against Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.).

Now the Republicans hope to go beyond the drama, although it is more likely that they will only start the second act, while McCarthy begins to try to secure the votes.

You can’t lose more than a handful of members. Although the House has not yet been formally convened, Republicans are expected to have a single-digit majority. And McCarthy has already lost two: Shortly before Wednesday’s conference meeting, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) appeared to wear firmly in the “no” column.

“[McCarthy] he wants to maintain the status quo, which consolidates power in his hands and in a small group of individuals he personally selects. We need a leader who can take on a Democratic controlled Senate and President Biden and unfortunately that is not Kevin McCarthy,” Rosendale said.

He joins Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who is pushing Jordan as a potential speaker candidate and casts doubt on McCarthy’s chances of finally reclaiming the sledgehammer: “Kevin McCarthy couldn’t get 218 votes, he couldn’t get 200 votes. He couldn’t get 190 votes.”

Other McCarthy opponents were also unfazed, calling for the California Republican’s challengers to step up.

Biggs noted that he will not challenge McCarthy again, wondering “how many times can he have a target on his back”, but said that House Republicans “still have a lot of things to discuss internally”, including public speaking.

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), who opposed McCarthy, said the fact that the current leader has not reached 218 internal votes “opens up the opportunity for anyone interested to let us know what their vision is for fight for the things that matter most to you.” the American people.”

McCarthy will need to be ready to squash several conservative amendments on Wednesday afternoon, or be prepared to defeat them later if the vote is delayed. Those proposed amendments include allowing members to choose their own committee chairs, opening conference meetings and requiring any bill that comes before the floor be supported by a majority of the conference.

The largely uncontroversial amendments will take up most of the discussion on Wednesday. A plan to vote on the proposed changes Wednesday night has been pushed back until after Congress’s week-long Thanksgiving recess, giving McCarthy more time to try to negotiate and work with various factions within his conference. .

“I’m looking to open this body up,” Biggs said when asked what he would need to back McCarthy in January. “But, I mean, I’m also looking for confidence.”

Nancy Vu contributed to this report.

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