McCarthy: Democrats could pick speaker if Republicans ‘play games’ on House floor

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned his skeptics in the House Republican Conference against opposing him for House Speaker.

“We must speak as one voice. We will only succeed if we work together, otherwise we will lose individually. This is very fragile — that we are the only stopgap for this Biden administration,” McCarthy said on Newsmax Monday.

“And if we don’t do this right, the Democrats could take the majority. If we play games on the floor, the Democrats could end up choosing who the speaker is,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy completed the first step toward the speakership when he won the House GOP’s nomination for the position earlier this month against a longstanding challenge from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a former chairman of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, by 188 to 31 votes, while five others voted for neither.

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But to secure the presidency, he needs to win majority support on the floor of parliament on the first day of the new Congress on January 3. And with Republicans winning a narrower-than-expected majority of about 222 seats to about 213 for Democrats, McCarthy can only afford to lose a handful of Republican votes on the floor.

All Democrats are expected to vote for their party’s presidential nominee, who is expected to finish as Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) this week. At least five House Republicans from the hardline conservative wing have publicly said or strongly indicated they will not vote for McCarthy on the floor, throwing his bid for the presidency into dangerous territory.

These members are reps. Bob Good (Va.), Ralph Norman (SC), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Biggs.

Several others have expressed skepticism about McCarthy but have not said how they will vote on Jan. 3. Biggs said on the “Conservative Review” podcast. on Monday that he believes the number of “hard nos” on McCarthy is about 20 GOP members, which would sink McCarthy’s bid.

McCarthy’s warning that Democrats will pick the speaker echoes repeated warnings from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has broken with her Freedom Caucus colleagues to strongly support McCarthy. A handful of moderates, she says, could join the Democrats to elect a more moderate president.

McCarthy also alluded to other factions of the party and the possibility of moderates breaking away.

“You have to listen to everybody in the conference, because five people on any side can stop anything when you’re in the majority,” McCarthy said on Newsmax.

Those opposed to McCarthy cite various issues, such as his failure to commit to passing a budget that cuts spending, his opposition to Freedom Caucus rules change requests that would give more power to rank-and-file members, and his unwillingness to commit to impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

McCarthy last week called on Mayorkas to resign or face a House investigation and potential impeachment.

Allies of McCarthy also point out that there is no viable GOP alternative to him as Speaker, although Biggs has said he expects a more consensus nominee to emerge by Jan. 3.

“I think at the end of the day, calmer heads will prevail. We will work together to find the best way forward,” McCarthy said.

Although a majority of the entire House is 218 members, it is possible for a Speaker to be elected with fewer than this number, as a Speaker needs majority support from only those who vote for a particular candidate by surname.

Absences, “present” votes and vacancies lower this threshold. Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin (Va.) died Monday, and his seat will likely be vacant on Jan. 3.

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