Uncertainty remains about whether House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will become the chamber's next speaker.
Although McCarthy won the House Republicans' vote 188-31, he must be approved by the entire chamber – and he cannot afford 31 GOP members to be against him in the Jan. 3 vote.
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That is because Newsmax projects the GOP has won 219 seats (with five races still uncalled), a very slim majority in the next Congress. Besides that, several lawmakers within the Republican conference have vowed not to back McCarthy.
"Look, we have our work cut out for us. We've got to have a small majority. We've got to listen to everybody in our conference," McCarthy said in a press conference last week after the GOP leadership vote.
Words, however, might not be enough to sway come McCarthy critics.
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"The hard thing for Kevin, realistically, is there are a fair number of people who have said very publicly they're 'Never Kevin.' Like, there's nothing that Kevin can do to get their vote," said Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, who declined to express his thoughts on McCarthy, The Hill reported.
Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., former House Freedom Caucus chair and someone who challenged McCarthy for the speaker nomination last week, have pledged not to vote for the minority leader on the House floor.
The House Freedom Caucus during the summer released a list of rule change demands for both the conference and the entire House that seek to reduce the power of leadership and distribute more of it to individual members.
"I refuse to elect the same people utilizing the same rules that keep us from – members like me from participating," Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., said on Stephen Bannon's "War Room" show.
McCarthy supporters note that some GOP lawmakers who voted against the leader via secret ballot in the conference will not want to be on the record publicly opposing him in a floor vote.
Still, opponents continue to put pressure on McCarthy.
"The Leader does not have 218 votes," said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., current chair of the Freedom Caucus, The Hill reported. "It is becoming increasingly perilous as we move forward."
During the GOP press conference last week, McCarthy pointed to former Speakers Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., becoming speaker despite experiencing major pushback within their conferences. However, Ryan (2015) and Pelosi (2019) had more substantial majorities.
With Republicans holding such a narrow majority, it's worth noting that McCarthy does not necessarily need 218 floor votes to win the speakership.
A candidate needs a majority of votes cast to become speaker. Thus, such things as unforeseen illness and bad weather could affect a vote.
Also, The Hill reported that a Congressional Research Service report noted "present" votes also lower the final number needed to win, with current House practice dictating that the speaker needs to win a majority "voting by surname."
Some House Republicans could opt to vote "present" rather than for either McCarthy or an alternative candidate without jeopardizing the leader's bid.
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