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House Republican says he's not sure if McCarthy will make it through his entire term as Speaker

By Sarah May on
 January 9, 2023

The process of electing a new speaker of the House of Representatives proved unusually contentious last week, and now that Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has finally secured the gavel, speculation is swirling as to whether his fractious party can hold itself together and agree not to remove him from power for the duration of this Congress, as Politico reports.

Murmurs about McCarthy's potentially fragile grip on control came over the weekend as many in the GOP defended the strife and drama that played out for the entire nation to see when a group of hardline Republicans continued to block his candidacy up until the 15th round of voting.

“Messy” process debated

The chaos that appeared to engulf the GOP at the start of the 118 Congress provided much fodder for outrage and ridicule from the left, but on Sunday, a number of notable Republicans claimed that what the nation actually witnessed over the past week was a prime example of democracy at work.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), whose own name was briefly floated as a potential speaker candidate, declared, “Sometimes democracy is messy, but I would argue that's exactly how the Founders intended it.”

Rather than viewing the protracted speaker's fight to an existential threat to party cohesiveness going forward, Jordan likened the seemingly endless rounds of balloting to overtime or extra innings in an athletic contest.

As Politico further noted, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) was another prominent Republican who tried to minimize the media's focus on the in-fighting, saying, “A little temporary conflict is necessary in this town.”

Referencing a particularly heated encounter on the House floor late Friday night between Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and anti-McCarthy holdout Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Roy added, "[w]hen you saw some of the interactions there between Mike Rogers and Matt Gaetz, some of that is – we need a little of that. We need a little of this sort of breaking the glass in order to get us to the table.”

McCarthy's risky gambit

With a host of concessions reportedly necessary to eliminate lingering opposition to his bid for the speaker's job, McCarthy made the controversial decision to adjust the rules and allow for a single member to pursue a “motion to vacate,” which serves to oust him from the lower chamber's perch of power.

Given the extraordinary rancor which characterized the speaker's race, some Republicans suspect that McCarthy may come to regret that gamble.

During discussion on NBC's Meet the Press over the weekend, Rep. James Comer (R-KY), himself a McCarthy supporter, expressed his wish for colleagues in the GOP to afford the new speaker a real opportunity to get a foothold in the job, but also revealed his doubts about whether some on the party's more conservative wing would be able to resist the temptation to seek his removal.

“I'm not going to say there won't be one person who tries to abuse that motion,” Comer declared, evincing a sense of real uncertainty about party unity in the coming months.

Crenshaw's olive branch

Perhaps in an effort to mend fences and prevent precisely the sort of scenario Roy seemed to predict, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) went public over the weekend with an apology to anti-McCarthy holdouts in his party to whom he referred as “charlatans” and “enemies” and whose conduct he likened to terrorism, as the Daily Mail noted.

Appearing on CNN's State of the Union, Crenshaw issued something of a mea culpa, saying, “to the extent that I have colleagues that were offended by [his remarks], I sincerely apologize to them.”

The Texas lawmaker continued, “I don't want them to think I actually believe they're terrorists. It's clearly a turn of phrase that you use in what is an intransigent negotiation.”

Even so, Crenshaw's contrition was tempered a bit when he added, “Look, I have got pretty thick skin. I'm called awful, vile things by the – kind of the very same wing of the party that I'm fighting, I was fighting at the moment. So, I was a little taken aback by the...sensitivity of it.”

He further underscored what his main beef with the holdouts was – not that they were attempting to secure concessions from McCarthy, but that they were doing so in such a publicly embarrassing way, saying, “There was no reason for us to keep voting, keep voting, allowing these speeches that just degraded and diminished and insulted Kevin McCarthy....[w]e could have just adjourned for the whole week and just kept negotiating.”

Party unity uncertain

It seems unlikely that the hard feelings on display during the speaker's fight have magically and instantly dissipated now that McCarthy holds the gavel, but with a host of GOP priorities jostling for attention in the new Congress, many remain hopeful that detente can be achieved.

Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) is among the optimists, saying on Sunday that the intense bargaining that went on during McCarthy's speaker bid “will make us a more effective majority,” but whether that will translate into any tangible legislative successes in the coming months is something that remains to be seen.