- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2023

A group of conservative holdouts who are refusing to back Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy in Tuesday’s vote for House speaker said his rejection of their demands leaves him short of the votes needed to win the gavel.

They warned that electing a new House speaker could take hours or even days.

“It’s going to be a chaotic day,” a top aide to one of the GOP holdouts told The Washington Times on Tuesday. “Could this last for days? Yeah, it could.”

Rep. Scott Perry, a conservative Republican from Pennsylvania, outlined the demands Mr. McCarthy has so far rejected, including commitments to consider term limits for members of Congress, a balanced budget measure and legislation to replace income taxes with a national sales tax.

Kevin McCarthy had an opportunity to be speaker of the House,” Rep. Mr. Perry said Tuesday. “He rejected it.”

Mr. Perry is part of a group of lawmakers who will not commit to voting for Mr. McCarthy and their opposition threatens to bring chaos to the speaker’s vote and the GOP’s new House majority.

SEE ALSO: Rep. Andy Biggs: McCarthy still ‘well short’ of votes on the cusp of House speaker vote

It would be the first time in a century the House failed to elect a speaker on the first ballot, and Mr. McCarthy appears on track to break the chamber’s 100-year, one-ballot streak. 

The House will convene for the 118th Congress at noon and soon after will hold a vote to choose the new speaker. As of Tuesday morning,  Mr. McCarthy lacked a majority among lawmakers who will vote for a candidate in person on the House floor.

Mr. McCarthy’s bid for speaker was weakened in the November election after Republicans failed to win the sizable majority predicted in polling. Instead, they will begin the new Congress with 222 votes — a mere five-seat advantage that gives added leverage to the relatively small group of GOP lawmakers making demands in exchange for their vote in the speaker’s election. 

The group of lawmakers dissatisfied with Mr. McCarthy has grown since Election Day. 

Mr. Perry is among nine lawmakers who announced this month they are withholding their support in a bid to force Mr. McCarthy to agree to more demands. They joined five conservative lawmakers who are more dug-in against Mr. McCarthy and at least a few of them say they cannot be persuaded to vote for him. 

Mr. McCarthy at first resisted negotiating with the holdouts, but on Sunday offered to make some changes to the rules. But Mr. Perry described the offer as “a vague ultimatum lacking in specifics and substance.”

SEE ALSO: House GOP faces historic leadership fight when Congress reconvenes Tuesday

One concession offered by Mr. McCarthy would make it easier to throw out the speaker mid-Congress. The change would allow five lawmakers to call up a vote to oust the speaker. But conservative holdouts want the rule changed back to the way it was written originally in the 1800s. That would allow a single lawmaker to call up the vote. 

Mr. McCarthy continued talks with Republicans on Monday and expressed optimism he would eventually come up with the votes to become Speaker.

Republicans don’t have an official backup plan, although incoming Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, is considered the only lawmaker who can win the votes needed if Mr. McCarthy steps aside.

A GOP aide involved in the negotiations said most of the Republicans withholding their support want to keep a path open for Mr. McCarthy to win if he agrees to their demands.

If he doesn’t, nobody seems to know what will happen next.

“If I gave you a sense that we know what is going to happen with certainty, I would be a bald-faced liar,” the aide said. “We don’t know.”

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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