A key Republican opponent of Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid for House speaker said late Monday the Californian remains “well short” of the 218 votes he needs.
Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, made the prediction about 16 hours before the vote at midday Tuesday to open the new Congress under a slim GOP majority in the House.
“Even after the McCarthy Machine’s attempts to whip votes and smear my name for several weeks, McCarthy is still well short of the 218 threshold,” Mr. Biggs said on Twitter. “Our party still requires new leadership and I will continue to oppose McCarthy for House Speaker.”
Mr. McCarthy has been negotiating with a small faction of rank-and-file conservatives who have flat-out refused to support him, putting his quest for the speakership in peril. He offered to change House rules in exchange for conservative support.
Nine Republican lawmakers on the fence about Mr. McCarthy said Sunday that his concessions were insufficient.
The lawmakers, led by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, said the majority needs a “radical departure from the status quo” that Mr. McCarthy represents.
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Those negotiations heated up Monday before Tuesday’s vote.
“McCarthy has gone into total bargaining mode to acquire last-minute votes for House speaker. There are no principles anymore. It’s become a take-whatever-you-need motto,” Mr. Biggs told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon on his “War Room” podcast on Monday. “This is what a McCarthy speakership would look like and would put our country last.”
The situation could force the House into a historic debate in which it requires multiple votes to name a speaker.
Mr. McCarthy does enjoy support from centrists, who’ve pledged to vote for him and only him, so he may have a path to victory.
The Republican holdouts could decide to vote “present,” which would not count against Mr. McCarthy and would lower the majority needed to win the speaker’s gavel.
• Susan Ferrechio contributed to this report.