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Kevin McCarthy relents on key conservative demand, will subject himself to no-confidence votes

By Sarah May on
 January 2, 2023

In his ongoing quest for the votes needed to secure the speaker's gavel this week, California Republican Kevin McCarthy has reportedly made a massive concession to his party's conservative wing, namely, agreeing to lower the threshold needed for members to remove him from his position in the future, should they see fit, as Politico notes.

Despite making what is viewed as a very significant – and indeed controversial – compromise, it remains unclear whether McCarthy will muster the additional support he needs by the time the speaker's vote is held Tuesday afternoon.

Battle continues

As The Hill reported last week, McCarthy's path to the speaker's job, which once appeared all but assured, has become increasingly difficult in recent days, and the congressman has been racing against the clock to persuade a cadre of conservative Republicans who have voiced opposition to his candidacy to lend him their support.

The outlet explained that no fewer than five hardline Republican lawmakers had made it clear that McCarthy is not their choice for speaker, and several others were using the situation as a way to secure his guarantees of assistance when it comes to their policy priorities in the new Congress.

Though McCarthy and his team had continued over the past few days to hold conversations with those unconvinced of his suitability for the role, they were reportedly unsuccessful in swaying sufficient numbers to win the day if all members are present and voting when the time comes on Jan. 3.

Concession granted

According to Politico, during a conference call held Sunday, McCarthy acquiesced and said that he would agree to make it easier for rank-and-file representatives to mount an attempt to remove him as speaker, something he hopes will secure their votes.

The rule proposed by McCarthy would permit just five members of the sitting majority to compel a no-confidence vote, a concession conservative legislators had long sought.

That adjustment, Politico noted, is just one of a number of rule changes McCarthy and his team have offered, but questions remain as to whether the slate of reforms will be enough.

The congressman's concerns were amplified Sunday when a flank of nine conservative representatives who have yet to declare their intentions with regard to the speaker's vote released a statement indicating their lingering dissatisfaction with McCarthy's attempts to meet their demands.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), who has led a group in opposition to McCarthy's bid, wrote on behalf of his colleagues, “Despite some progress achieved, Mr. McCarthy's statement comes almost impossibly late to address continued deficiencies ahead of the opening of the 118th Congress on January 3rd,” adding that the speaker-hopeful's Sunday communication was “missing specific commitments with respect to virtually every component of our entreaties.”

Path still unclear

As the vote grows ever closer, Axios reported Monday that even some of McCarthy's closest allies believe it is “hard to see a path” to the 218 votes he needs to become speaker, considering that he can only have four Republican defections and still prevail.

That take likely stems from the fact that five hardline conservatives, including Reps. Matt Gaetz (FL), Andy Biggs (AZ), Ralph Norman (SC), Matt Rosendale (MT), and Bob Good (VA), have all declared themselves “no” votes for McCarthy, and that could just be the tip of the oppositional iceberg.

Speaking on Fox & Friends, Good went so far as to suggest that there are between 10 and 15 Republicans he expects to vote against McCarthy, who he says is “part of the problem, not the solution” and a member of the moderate establishment responsible for numerous legislative outrages.

“There is nothing that indicates to me that he is going to change his pattern since he has been in leadership where he is part of the swamp cartel. He is the reason on the Republican side why we pass massive omnibus spending bills that just got rammed down our throats by Republicans in the Senate. He was part of that leadership,” Good lamented.

Tumultuous Tuesday ahead

As Fox News' senior congressional correspondent Chad Pergram noted on Monday, the opening day of the 118th Congress could be one of unusually high drama due to the uncertainty still surrounding McCarthy's candidacy,

Because of the highly contested nature of the speaker's race this time around, the typical flow of the day could be substantially disrupted for the first time in nearly 100 years, and it is far from clear whether it will take a single vote, a few hours, or even a week or more to achieve a final resolution on who will take the gavel.

With it still up in the air precisely how many members will be in attendance and how many will cast a vote in the speaker's race, even the final threshold for success in the contest will remain unclear until the first count is held.

Though McCarthy reportedly told Punchbowl News on Monday that he was feeling “actually really good” about his prospects, the likely outcome seems far from obvious even at this eleventh hour, so it goes without saying that the eyes of the nation will be on D.C. as the battle for House leadership finally comes to a head.