“I don’t believe he will ever get 218 votes”: GOP rebellion threatens to kill McCarthy speaker bid

Rep. Andy Biggs says there are about 20 "pretty hard nos" in the Republican Party against McCarthy

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published November 30, 2022 1:52PM (EST)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is seen after a meeting about avoiding a railroad worker strike with President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday, November 29, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is seen after a meeting about avoiding a railroad worker strike with President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday, November 29, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who ran against House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for the GOP House speaker nomination, predicted this week that McCarthy is down roughly 20 votes with "pretty hard nos" ahead of a full House vote, Politico reported

The California Republican needs to win the majority of the votes cast in January in a House in which Republicans hold a narrow majority over Democrats. McCarthy is at risk of falling short of the 218 votes necessary to secure the post if all members are present.

"I was told by a number of people, who came after to me afterwards, who aren't members of [the] Freedom Caucus, [that] 'Hey, I voted for you' or 'I voted against Kevin,'" Biggs, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, said on a Conservative Review podcast.

So far, at least four other House Freedom Caucus members have joined Biggs in opposing McCarthy for speaker: Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., Bob Good, R-Va., and Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.

Gaetz, Goods and Norman have been the most vocal about being resolute in voting against McCarthy, while Rosendale has suggested that he would be open to backing the California Republican if he makes significant concessions.

Biggs published an op-ed two weeks ago, making it clear he was a hard no when it came to voting for McCarthy. 

"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 wrote. "In the end, I must concur with my constituents: it is time to make a change at the top of the House of Representatives. I cannot vote for the gentleman from California, Mr. McCarthy."

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Gaetz was the first one to come out against McCarthy hard, before the House GOP conference chose him as its leader and nominee for speaker, according to The Washington Post

"I'm not voting for Kevin McCarthy," Gaetz said. "I'm not voting for him tomorrow. I'm not voting for him on the floor." 

No kind of concession could change his mind about supporting McCarthy, he told Puck News.

Good is also set on his vote. Asked about what McCarthy would have to do to earn his vote during an interview with Steve Bannon, Good responded, "No, sir, because we can do better."

He added that several Republicans have come out publicly to oppose the California Republican and he believes many more will join them "on January 3rd [to] reflect the will of the voters, who sent us to Congress to make the change that's desperately needed to save the Republic. We're not going to get that with current leadership. We have to have a new speaker."

Norman is also standing firm in his decision to vote no. He has cited McCarthy's refusal to adopt the Republican Study Committee's plan for the budget as one of his main points of contention. 

"I'm not going to support Kevin McCarthy," Norman told Just the News. "Washington is broken. There's a cancer in this country and it can't be fixed with aspirin. It's called overspending. When you're bankrupt, you can't function as a country."

Rosendale, who is also leaning towards no, has indicated that House rules don't empower the rank and file enough. 

"We need a leader who can stand up to a Democrat-controlled Senate and President Biden, and unfortunately, that isn't Kevin McCarthy," Rosendale said. 

A spokeswoman from his team told Puck News that Rosendale would vote for McCarthy only under "extreme circumstances." 

As House Republicans decide whether to back the California Republican, McCarthy has warned that "If we play games on the floor, the Democrats could end up picking who the speaker is."

McCarthy passed the first hurdle toward speakership when he won the House GOP's nomination for the position earlier this month against Biggs in a 188 to 31 vote, with five others voting for neither lawmaker.

"I think at the end of the day, calmer heads will prevail," McCarthy said. "We'll work together to find the best path forward."

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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