With the election for Speaker of the House of Representatives taking place on Tuesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has agreed to a major rule change in an effort to secure conservative support for his shaky bid for leadership.
The Daily Caller reports that McCarthy agreed on Sunday to make it easier for a vote of no-confidence to be brought up against a sitting Speaker, changing the procedure so that any rank-and-file member of the House can call for such a vote. Previously, a vote of no-confidence, also known as a motion to vacate the chair, could only be brought by a member of party leadership.
Now, although the details have yet to be finalized, the new version of the rules will allow any member of the House to call for such a vote at any time. McCarthy is still working with House conservatives to determine key details, such as how many regular members will be required to force such a vote. The last time such a vote was successfully called was in 2015, when conservatives in the House ultimately forced Speaker John Boehner to resign.
Other rule changes that McCarthy is pursuing in his bid for Speaker include longer periods of time for House members to read bills, rules forbidding House GOP leadership from getting involved in primaries, and greater limitations on spending.
As the new GOP majority will hold just 222 seats, which is just four seats about the minimum threshold of 218 votes, McCarthy cannot afford to lose the votes of more than four House Republicans. But there are already at least five conservatives who have publicly vowed to not support McCarthy: Congressmen Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Bob Good (R-Va.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.).
Biggs, the most recent former chair of the Freedom Caucus, is planning to challenge McCarthy in the floor vote, after losing the GOP conference’s closed-door vote to officially nominate a candidate for Speaker back in November; Biggs received 31 votes to McCarthy’s 188.
In addition to the five public holdouts, at least nine other Republicans stated in a letter on Sunday that, “despite some progress achieved, Mr. McCarthy’s statement comes almost impossibly late to address continued deficiencies ahead of the opening of the 118th Congress on January 3rd.”
In an election for Speaker, a candidate must win an outright majority of the votes that are cast by present members of the House of Representatives. In the case that no candidate wins a majority, the election must go to a second ballot, and then as many successive ballots as needed until someone emerges with a majority. The last time a Speaker’s race needed multiple ballots was exactly 100 years ago, in 1923, when Republican Frederick H. Gillett was elected Speaker after 9 ballots.