Kevin McCarthy is Still Hunting for Votes Ahead of Today’s Speakership Vote

Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid remains in peril just hours before today’s vote.


Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid remains in peril just hours before today’s vote as the House Republican Leader continues to scramble for the 218 votes he needs to avoid the first first-ballot loss for speaker in a century.

  • McCarthy has begged, prodded, and pleaded with lawmakers for their votes since Republicans secured their sim House majority in November, but remains several votes short. If all members vote, the California Republican can only afford to lose four votes.
  • Five members from the conference’s right fringe have refused to vote for McCarthy, and several others are still uncommitted despite a litany of concessions from McCarthy including changing the rules to allow any member to force a vote to depose the speaker.
  • This concession allowing a no-confidence vote on the speaker – a change many Republicans fear could weaken their leadership team – was a major flip-flop for McCarthy. He had previously opposed reinstating the so-called motion to vacate after it was effectively used to force out then-Speaker John Boehner in 2015.
  • McCarthy’s first bid for speaker after Boehner’s fall floundered in the face of conservative opposition. Seven years later, the California Republican has vowed to keep fighting ballot after ballot as the House cannot conduct any business until a Speaker has been chosen.
  • After his latest round of concessions, nine additional Republicans emerged with more demands for McCarthy, including that leadership agree to not oppose conservatives in open primaries, even if it could cost swing seats in the general election.
  • Former president Donald Trump has backed McCarthy, and the self-described conservatives opposing his bid have earned criticism from numerous Trump-aligned figures including former Speaker Newt Gingrich.
  • Gingrich blasted the holdouts as “kamikazes” out to “sink the whole Republican Party” because they “can’t count straight. They can’t play tic-tac-toe. They can’t accept victory.”


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • According to the Washington Post, McCarthy and his close allies spent the holiday weekend calling members to shore up support and prevent what “would be a historic loss: No leader vying for speaker has lost a first-round vote in a century.”
  • It’s still unclear who could take over from McCarthy should his speakership bid falter, CNN reported. Steve Scalise has remained quiet throughout the process and publicly supports McCarthy. Other dark horse contenders include Reps. Patrick McHenry, Jim Jordan, and Tom Cole. 
  • The New York Times noted members are obligated to vote continuously until a speaker is chosen, increasing the pressure on Republicans to quickly coalesce behind an alternative should McCarthy abandon his bid. In addition to Scalise, Jordan, and McHenry, the Times identified Rep. Elise Stefanik as a possible unity candidate.



  • The Washington Examiner outlined five key concessions McCarthy has made to try to win votes from the holdouts in his conference. Besides the motion to vacate, McCarthy offered to bring back a mechanism to give members more power to cut spending and changes to the committee process.
  • The Wall Street Journal noted both McCarthy’s supporters and opponents think the vote could go to a second ballot, which hasn’t happened since it took nine ballots to select a speaker in 1923.
  • National Review outlined the legislative priorities of House Republicans – once they get around to choosing their leader, of course. Immigration, public safety, and parental rights seem likely to be the key planks of Republicans’ policy agenda.


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© Dominic Moore, 2023